Briefly Noted

Dec 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Channels 52 to 59 won’t be limited to broadcasters
The Federal Communications Commission last week announced that the winning auction bidders for broadcast channels 52 to 59 will have the flexibility to pick the technology they want to use to serve the public with those frequencies after the broadcast industry’s conversion to digital is complete. Nonetheless, the FCC said any efforts by broadcasters to cash in by selling their rights to the channels to the auction winners before the conversion will be subject to public-interest reviews by the FCC. That struck some observers as a blatant step backward for the agency, because its rules for the auctions of channels 60 to 69 suggested that broadcasters would be able to bank on agency approval of similar agreements to vacate early. But that was before Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., slammed as “outrageous” the plan to let broadcasters cash in by vacating channels 60 to 69. Said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a former aide to Sen. Hollings, after the rules on channels 52 to 59 were adopted last week, “We come down squarely on the side of a public-interest review of each case rather than letting purely commercial transactions determine the future of this critical public spectrum.” Nonetheless, an FCC source said the agency had not changed course under pressure and that there are a number of differences between the two spectrum bands that justify treating them under different sets of regulations.
Station groups to meet at TVB in New York
Six major broadcast station groups have committed to holding management meetings in tandem with the Television Bureau of Advertising’s 2002 Marketing Conference, to be held in New York City in March, in conjunction with the New York Auto Show. The past 10 TVB conferences have been held in conjunction with the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention, which will take place in Las Vegas. Approximately 500 executives are expected to attend the TVB conference. “The New York venue is not only attracting more television executives, it will also allow us to attract advertiser and agency participants who might not have been able to justify a trip to Las Vegas,” said TVB President Chris Rohrs.
Vinciquerra named Fox network president
Tony Vinciquerra, 47, who has been executive VP and chief operating officer of Hearst-Argyle Television Stations during a time of dramatic expansion, will become president of the Fox Television Network effective Jan. 1. He will report to News Corp. President and COO Peter Chernin. Mr. Vinciquerra succeeds Brian Mulligan, whose short stint as Fox network president came to an abrupt end earlier this year. He will oversee business development, finance, advertising sales, affiliate relations, administration and personnel at the Fox network.
Hearst-Argyle said Mr. Vinciquerra’s duties will be assumed by President and CEO David Barrett, who said his company’s management bench strength is a testament to Mr. Vinciquerra’s executive skills. In addition to personal ties that draw Mr. Vinciquerra back to Los Angeles, where he was based during his two years with the CBS-owned stations, he relishes the opportunity to work with Mr. Chernin, whom Mr. Vinciquerra called “a brilliant leader,” and to work for News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch, whom he termed “a visionary.”
Russert signs on for 12 more years at NBC
Tim Russert has signed a new contract that guarantees him 12 more years of “the best job in television”: moderator of “Meet the Press,” the No. 1 Sunday newsmaker show. He adds the duties and title of managing editor for the show he has moderated for a decade, in addition to continuing as Washington bureau chief and political analyst for “Today” and “NBC Nightly News,” contributor for MSNBC and host of an interview show, “Tim Russert,” on CNBC.
Vote on broadband bill delayed
A House floor vote on the controversial Tauzin-Dingell broadband bill has been delayed until March 2002 because several representatives have concerns about the legislation and want more time to study its impact on the marketplace, a source said. Retiring House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, had tentatively scheduled a Dec. 14 vote on the bill, but he scuttled those plans at the last minute. The measure removes regulatory restrictions on the Baby Bells so they can compete more vigorously in the high-speed Internet access business against cable broadband providers. Critics say the bill is a giveaway to the Bells, which face little competition in the local phone service arena.
Short takes
PBS has secured packaged-goods giant Johnson & Johnson to be the sole corporate underwriter for its upcoming Latino American drama “American Family,” to premiere 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) Wednesday, Jan. 23. The groundbreaking 13-episode series was created by Academy Award-nominated director Gregory Nava. … ESPN is launching ESPN Classic Sport in Europe. The new 24/7 network rolls out first in France, with a launch set for early 2002.