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Feb 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Friday, Feb. 8, at 10:45 a.m. (PT); last updated at 3:40 p.m.

Hollings plans hearing on EchoStar-DirecTV merger

Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, plans to hold a hearing on the $26 billion merger of EchoStar and DirecTV, sources said. An aide said the hearing might have to wait until the Enron scandal, which the panel has been investigating, dies down. Meanwhile, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., chairman of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, will hold his own hearing on EchoStar-DirecTV in late February or early March and another on the $72 billion Comcast-AT&T Broadband combination later in the spring. Both lawmakers have recently raised concerns about the impact of media consolidation.

Belo’s McCarthy set to retire: Michael J. McCarthy, Belo’s senior executive vice president and a member of the company’s five-person management committee, announced that he plans to retire as an executive officer in October 2002. McCarthy, 57, said he is considering a range of choices, including some that would continue his relationship with Belo.

Fox picks up Apatow “Parole on Life” pilot: Fox formally made a pilot pickup of Judd Apatow’s previously under-wraps sitcom project, “Parole on Life,” late Friday. Mr. Apatow, who is creator of Fox’s critically-received but modestly rated “Undeclared” and NBC’s former “Freaks & Geeks,” is joining Brent Forrester as writers and executive producers of “Life on Parole” under the production auspices of DreamWorks Television and 20th Century Fox Television. The project revolves around a parole officer (played by Dave Herman, most recently of the movie “Office Space”) whose best friend becomes one of his parolees.

For the 2002-03 season comedy slate, Fox to-date has only made two other confirmed sitcom pickups (‘The Grubbs” and an untitled Ricky Blitt project). Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman appears to be less pressed to make many comedy pilots, given that the network has had the most success in planting hit comedies (such as “Malcolm in the Middle,” “That `70s Show” and “Bernie Mac”) over the last three seasons.

However, with Fox ordering only 17 original episodes of Mr. Apatow’s “Undeclared,” which is set to end its 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) Tuesday run of original episodes on March 12, there is some question whether Fox will renew the show for next season. A Fox spokesman said it is too early for the network to make a formal decision on “Undeclared’s” fate.

‘Felicity’ to end for good in May: There will be no more controversial haircuts or perky angst for “Felicity,” The WB’s cute-kids-in-college drama starring Keri Russell as Felicity Porter. The series will return to the 9 p.m. (ET) Wednesday time slot, currently occupied by “Glory Days,” for its final 11 episodes beginning March 20. The series bows out of first run on May 22 with two back-to-back one-hour episodes.

“Felicity,” however, will live on in cable syndication. WE: Women’s Entertainment will strip all four seasons, totaling 84 episodes, of the Buena Vista Television series, beginning Sept. 30, 2002.

Ross named entertainment president for Disney Channel: Rich Ross has been named president of entertainment for the Disney Channel. In the newly created position, Mr. Ross will oversee development, production and programming at the Channel, as well as the 14-hour kids’ programming block on ABC Family. He will report to Anne Sweeney, president of ABC Cable Networks Group and Disney Channel Worldwide.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications