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Jan 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 11:15 a.m. (PT); last updated at 3:10 p.m.

Broadcast nets join in fight for cameras in Moussaoui courtroom

A growing list of media organizations is urging a federal court in Alexandria, Va., to permit news cameras in the courtroom during the trial of alleged Sept. 11 terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui. NBC, CBS and ABC on Tuesday joined the Radio-Television News Directors Association in its Jan. 7 request that cameras and microphones be allowed to cover the proceedings before the U.S. District Court. CNN and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have already joined RTNDA’s filing, and Court TV and C-Span submitted their own motions. Lawyers for the defendant support the idea, but news cameras and microphones have long been banned at federal trials. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema will hear arguments on the matter Wednesday morning.

FCC examining EchoStar’s adherence to must-carry rules: Prompted by broadcaster concerns, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday announced that it will examine whether satellite television provider EchoStar Communications is complying with the federal must-carry law.

The agency is putting the review on a fast track and is requesting comment from industry and other parties by Jan. 23. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, requires satellite providers to carry all or no local stations in a market.

EchoStar is offering local signals in 36 major markets, but subscribers must obtain a second satellite dish to see many of them, a requirement the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association of Local Television Stations think violates the law and agency rules. They want the FCC to clarify that each DBS customer must be able to receive local signals using a single dish.

Fox’s ‘Chamber’ progressing despite ‘Chair’ lawsuit: Fox is pushing forward with getting quiz contestants to enter “The Chamber,” a new midseason game show, despite the fact that the creator of ABC’s upcoming quiz show “The Chair” is suing Fox in charging that it a copycat is concept. Julie Christie, creator of the New Zealand-based concept “The Chair,” filed the suit last Friday against Fox in Los Angeles District Court, claiming the network stole the concept and then brought it over to Dick Clark Productions to produce. Mr. Clark’s production company is not named in the suit.

Ms. Christie’s suit claims she had been developing the project for over a year and then began pitching several networks, including Fox, ABC and CBS, before ABC formally made a 13-episode development commitment last December.

However, a Fox spokesman countered that the network had “The Chamber” in development for up to a year and then brought in Dick Clark Productions six months “preceding any development meeting with the plaintiff [Ms. Christie],” whom Fox claimed not to receive her pitch until early November. “The suit is without any merit, and we expect to come out victorious,” said the Fox rep.

Nevertheless, the premise for both game shows is strikingly similar, with quiz contestants having their heart rates and respiration measured while they face a rapid-fire succession of quiz questions. For “The Chair,” which was teased in promotional spots airing during this week’s “Monday Night Football” telecast, former acerbic tennis great John McEnroe has been named as host. Alan Schwartz is expected to shortly be named host of “The Chamber,” according to Fox sources.

Most notably, Fox is said to be looking to beat ABC to the punch, scheduling “The Chamber” for a six-episode run beginning with a special preview at 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) Sunday, Jan. 20, followed by its remaining five weeks in the 8 p.m-to-9 p.m. Friday time slot starting Jan. 25.

To make room for “The Chamber,” “Dark Angel” will be pre-empted on Jan. 25 and will then settle into the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. slot in place of second repeat run of the acclaimed drama “24.” A Fox spokesman said “24,” which averaged about a 3 rating in among adults 18 to 49 in the 9 p.m. Friday hour, is being considered for a secondary Friday time slotting once “The Chamber” ends its limited run.

ABC has not yet set a premiere date for “The Chair” but is said to be looking to accelerate production to have it air in advance of Fox’s “Chamber” — hence the early promotion on “Monday Night Football” — in an effort to establish “The Chair” as the first, “original” concept to get on the air, said a source close to ABC.

Wakshlag to become TBS’s chief research officer: Jack Wakshlag, a veteran network researcher at The WB (as well as CBS), has moved over to join sister AOL Time Warner company Turner Broadcasting System in the newly created position of chief research officer.

In an appointment announced by Vicky Miller, executive vice president and chief financial officer of TBS, Mr. Wakshlag will oversee all of TBS’s research and audience development functions. He will also be in charge of research for the domestic and international networks of the CNN News Group, which include CNN/U.S., CNN Headline News, CNN International and CNNfn; the entertainment networks TBS Superstation, TNT, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Turner South, Boomerang and their international extensions; and Turner Sports. Mr. Wakshlag will also retain oversight of research for The WB.

Mr. Wakshlag, who will be reunited with The WB’s founding CEO, Jamie Kellner, who is now chairman and CEO of TBS, will also be working closely with TBS department heads as a strategist and adviser on key research issues across the company. He will be moving from Los Angeles to be based in Atlanta and report to Ms. Miller.

Mr. Wakshlag most recently served as executive vice president and head of research for The WB, overseeing all research related to the network’s programming, distribution, publicity, marketing and sales. He joined The WB in 1995 from CBS, where he served as director of research for CBS New Media and Television Stations, from 1988 to 1994; and director of primary research for CBS Television Stations, from 1986 to 1988. Mr. Wakshlag was an associate professor of telecommunications at Indiana University from 1977 to 1986.

ABC sweeps New Year’s week in major demos: It may come as little consolation following Monday’s resignation of Stu Bloomberg as chairman of ABC Television Entertainment Group, but the Alphabet Network swept the holiday week of Dec. 31, 2001-Jan. 6, 2002 in adults 18 to 49, households and total viewers. In winning five out of the seven nights last week, ABC was boosted by top-rated performances from three college bowl games (including the Rose Bowl-BCS title game last Thursday) and its traditionally highly rated “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve `02” special on Dec. 31.

From last Tuesday through Thursday, the Sugar Bowl (8.6 rating/15 share), Orange Bowl (9.5/15) and Rose Bowl (13.8/22) propelled ABC to the win in households those evenings, according to final Nielsen Media Research national data. The three BCS bowl games were also top-ranked in adults 18 to 49 — Sugar (4.7/12), Orange (5.1/13) and Rose (7.9/19)-in helping ABC similarly sweep up wins in the key demos. The only break in ABC’s adult 18 to 49 dominance came at 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) Thursday with the next-to-last episode of “Survivor: Africa” (8.7/20) and a repeat of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (8.0/18) — both from CBS — beating all network comers, including NBC’s vaunted Must-See TV comedy lineup.

On Sunday, ABC also won adults 18 to 49 with the repeat of the movie “Dr. Dolittle” (4.2/10) and original episodes of “Alias” (4.6/10) and “The Practice” (5.7/13) powering the network to a win on the night (4.7/11) over Fox’s vaunted lineup (4.5/10).

Overall, ABC came out winning the week in adults 18 to 49 (4.6/12), beating NBC (4.0/10) by an unexpectedly large 15 percent margin. Other than ABC’s stunting, the other networks largely aired repeats, with Fox coming in third in adults 18 to 49 (3.6/9), followed by CBS (3.4/9).

Nevertheless, for the season-to-date (Sept. 24-Jan. 6), ABC’s 3.9/11 average in adults 18 to 49 represents a 19 percent slide from this time last season (4.8/13)-the largest drop of
any broadcast network.

For the 16th week of this season, though, ABC also beat NBC by a 16 percent margin in households (8.1/14 vs. 7.0/12), while perennial household winner CBS (6.9/12) dropped to third-place. ABC’s 12.7 million total-viewer average also handled NBC and CBS — both at 10.6 million — by 20 percent margins.

WWFE enters publishing realm: World Wrestling Federation Entertainment has gotten into the ring with Simon & Schuster, Viacom’s publishing house, creating a new imprint, World Wrestling Federation Books, that will launch in fall 2002 and have global publishing rights to WWFE personalities and stories, both fiction and nonfiction.

The new three-year agreement follows publication of such WWFE-themed titles as “Mankind: Have a Nice Day,” “Foley Is Good,” and “The Rock Says,” three recent best-sellers by popular WWFE wrestlers. Those books were published by HarperCollins, the publishing house owned by News Corp., under a previous agreement that ends this summer. The first book to be published under the new agreement will be the autobiography of another to-be-determined WWF personality.

Currently, all WWFE programming, other than its pay-per-view programs, is telecast by UPN, MTV and TNN, all of which are Viacom-owned networks.

CTAM elects new officers: CTAM, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, has elected its officers for 2002. They are Kevin Leddy, senior VP, new product development, Time Warner Cable, who becomes CTAM’s new chairman; Len Fogge, executive VP, creative and marketing, Showtime Networks, who becomes vice chairman; Dave Watson, executiveVP, sales, marketing and customer service, Comcast Cable Communications, who becomes secretary; and Jim O’Brien, president and CEO, The Cable Center, who becomes treasurer. The organization’s immediate past chairman is Douglas Holloway, president, network distribution and affiliate relations, USA Networks.

Pappas stations become Azteca America affils: Pappas Telecasting Co. has announced that two of its full power stations KTNC-TV, San Francisco, and KAZH-TV, Houston, have joined the Azteca America Network as affiliates. Pappas also sold TV Azteca a 25 percent equity stake in both stations for $70 million.

Rieger to co-anchor KYW-TV newscasts: Philadelphia’s CBS-owned KYW-TV reporter Robin Rieger was promoted to co-anchor of the station’s weekend evening newscasts. She starts co-anchoring with Ren Scott on Saturday.

Cossack to anchor trial coverage for Court TV: Roger Cossack, who rose to TV prominence with Greta Van Susteren when the two attorneys began providing legal analysis of the O.J. Simpson trial for CNN and then later co-anchored CNN’s now-canceled “Burden of Proof” with her, will join Court TV’s daytime live trial coverage as an anchor. Mr. Cossack also will host Monday’s “Open Court,” a two-hour running analysis of trials in progress on Court TV. In addition, he will contribute analysis to the network’s news specials.

Mr. Cossack’s move to Court TV comes a month after “Burden of Proof” was canceled and he laid off as part of cutbacks at CNN. It also follows by less than one week Ms. Susteren’s high-profile defection from CNN to the Fox News Channel.

Cable considers gay-targeted programming: 2002 may be the year that a niche cable channel targeted at the gay audience launches in America.

MTV and Showtime are in “serious discussions” about launching such a channel, TV Guide will report in its next issue, and Viacom, the cable networks’ corporate parent, may give a four-hour gay programming block a tryout on Showtime Too, one of the Showtime multiplex networks, as soon as this March.

HBO, USA Networks and Rainbow Media are the other media players considering launching such a service, TV Guide will report.

An HBO spokesman denied that such a channel was under consideration. A USA Networks spokeswoman was unavailable for comment. An MTV Networks spokeswoman also was unavailable for comment. A Showtime spokeswoman had no comment. A Rainbow spokeswoman also had no comment.

Rainbow is a candidate for this type of launch if for no other reason than its avowed interest in high-tech, video-on-demand programming to niche groups as a business model for the cable industry. For example, Rainbow, Cablevision Systems’ programming arm, recently launched Mag Rack on Cablevision’s New York-area cable systems. Mag Rack is a video-on-demand digital-tier service for hobbyists and other self-identified interest groups, among them vegetarians and American Catholics.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications