Briefly Noted

Feb 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Critics of `Boston Public’ air grievances
More than a dozen conservative and Christian groups complained to the Federal Communications Commission last week that Fox’s “Boston Public,” which airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. (ET), has too much sex for a show that depicts-and appeals to-high schoolers. The groups met Feb. 7 with sympathetic House lawmakers and may also complain about the Super Bowl Sunday installment of NBC’s “Fear Factor,” featuring Playboy Playmates in bikinis. The flare-up is raising questions about whether the FCC is enforcing its indecency guidelines and whether the broadcast networks should voluntarily clean up programming and reinstate the family hour. In the strange bedfellows department, the right-leaning groups are hailing Democratic FCC regulator Michael Copps for his tough stand on enforcement. “We don’t care if he’s a socialist. He’s our ally,” said Patrick Trueman, spokesman for the American Family Association, a Christian nonprofit organization. A Fox spokesman said the network stands behind “Boston Public” producer David E. Kelley and has no plans to alter the content or the time slot, changes the groups are seeking.
EchoStar, DirecTV grilled on merger
Making clear that EchoStar Communications’ plan to acquire DirecTV is still open to some question, the Federal Communications Commission last week asked the two companies to respond to 10 pages of new inquiries on many aspects of the deal. Blair Levin, a former FCC staffer who is now a telecom and media analyst for Legg Mason, said the questions point to a central governmental concern. “It is clear that the merger reduces competition in some markets,” Mr. Levin said. “But can it be justified in improving efficiencies or consumer welfare in other ways? [The companies] have to prove that the only way to achieve those efficiencies is through that merger.”
FCC nomination carries a political price
If Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., wants his aide named to the Federal Communications Commission, he may have to confirm a slew of other Bush administration nominees-including a long string of pending appointments to the federal judiciary. At least that’s the trade-off that sources said Sen. Daschle will have to make if he expects President Bush to nominate the lawmaker’s legislative assistant, Jonathan Adelstein, to an FCC vacancy. “We’ll have to see some judges moving over the goal line,” one veteran observer said. In an unusual move last November, Sen. Daschle publicly announced that he was recommending Mr. Adelstein for the Democratic FCC slot. At deadline last week, Mr. Adelstein appeared to remain under serious White House consideration for the post, but President Bush had not officially nominated Mr. Adelstein. According to sources, President Bush has made clear his concerns that Sen. Daschle has been dragging his feet over other White House nominations.
Martin joins AOL TW
John Martin, cable analyst at ABN AMRO and former VP of investor relations at Time Warner, joins AOL Time Warner this week as VP of investor relations, replacing the retiring Richard Hanlon. Mr. Martin, 34, has been director of equity research at ABN AMRO since August 2000. A certified public accountant who began his career at Ernst & Young LLP, he first joined Time Warner in 1999.
Rebranded Speed Channel to emphasize racing
Fox Sports executives last week laid out relaunch plans for the former Speedvision’s debut as Speed Channel, scheduled for Monday. They emphasized a heavy rotation of live racing events and Wednesday prime-time replays of 36 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race events this season. Repurposing of the highly rated NASCAR events is expected to be a critical element of Speed Channel’s prime-time lineup, said Jim Liberatore, president of Speed Channel. In addition to the nonexclusive deal with NASCAR, the Speed Channel will have the exclusive cable rights to carry Formula One, CART, World Rally Racing, Trans Am and SCCA racing-much of that being showcased in daytime and prime time on weekends. With NASCAR serving as a cornerstone sport, Richy Glassberg, senior VP of advertising sales for Speed Channel, said the four Fox-owned channels with NASCAR rights have sold 10 major advertisers on overall multiplatform advertising deals and have 14 other advertisers expressing interest in multiplatform buys.
KRON-TV becomes prime acquisition target
Industry brokers say the jockeying for KRON-TV, San Francisco, isn’t likely to begin until first-quarter financials and ratings are out for the station’s first quarter as a large market independent. NBC, Walt Disney, Viacom and Fox all are candidates, sources said. Because it has dropped to the No. 5 spot in the San Francisco market, KRON can be acquired by any of the major market players according to current regulations. Chairman Vincent Young essentially put KRON and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles on the block as big market duopoly properties, saying he thought he could get more for KRON than the $823 million in cash he paid for the station.