Briefly noted

Feb 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

FCC ponders how to handle frequency requests
The Federal Communications Commission last week launched proceedings to determine what to do when noncommercial broadcasters want to apply for new frequencies that haven’t been specifically reserved for noncommercial operations. The FCC originally wanted to require both noncommercial and commercial broadcasters to compete in auctions for the channels. But a federal appeals court last year held that the government didn’t have authority to use auctions to decide contests that include noncommercial operators.
Intention no promise for Adelstein
President Bush last week announced his intention to nominate Jonathan Adelstein to fill a Democratic slot at the Federal Communications Commission. Sources warned that is something less than a formal nomination, and the Senate can’t schedule confirmation hearings until it gets the White House’s official nod. Nonetheless, a Democratic source said an intention to nominate usually signals commitment. This source also said the official announcement could be forthcoming within the next several weeks. Mr. Adelstein is an aide to Senate majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Asset sale possible for Cablevision
Cablevision Systems management again warned of possibly having to sell assets or take other fund-raising steps to meet increased debt requirements in 2003. Goldman Sachs analyst Richard Greenfield downgraded the cable company to “market perform” from “market outperform” over concerns about noncable operations, especially Madison Square Garden without its New York Yankees franchise. Cablevision swung to a fourth-quarter net loss of $281.6 million from a $556.6 million profit a year earlier (that was helped by a one-time $1.08 billion gain on the sale of cable assets). Revenues rose 3.5 percent to $1.29 billion, while operating cash flow fell 3 percent to $232 million. Its 77 percent owned Rainbow Media Group reported a 41 percent rise in pro forma cash flow to $31.4 million on a 24 percent rise in revenues to $162 million.
TV clutter levels reach all-time highs
Clutter levels showed record-high increases in many TV dayparts this year, indicating a reversal of last year when the amount of nonprogramming minutes on TV’s broadcast networks went down. The only exception to the upward trend was in prime time, which showed a slight decrease in clutter. The increases were revealed in a joint report by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers titled the 2001 Television Commercial Monitoring Report, at the AAAA 2002 Media Conference & Trade Show in Orlando, Fla.
The report showed that on average, nonprogram minutes reached an all-time high. Of the six dayparts monitored, three set clutter records: early morning (18:02 minutes per hour from 17:44 in 2000), daytime (20:57 in 2001 from 20:03 in 2000) and local news (17:10 from 17:05 in 2000). Although not at record levels for their dayparts, nonprogram minutes were also high for late-night and network news. Prime boasted the only decrease: down to 16:08 from 16:17 last year, the lowest it’s been since 1998. Four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) are within one minute of each other for nonprogram minutes in prime time, the closest they’ve been since November 1999. CBS experienced an increase of 26 seconds to 16:04 from the previous year, while ABC-the least cluttered network in prime time-remained the same. Despite showing the greatest fluctuation with a decrease of 43 seconds, NBC remained the most cluttered network in prime time.
AAAA selects new chairman, vice chairman
The Advisory Council of the American Association of Advertising Agencies has nominated Ken Kaess, president and CEO, DDB Worldwide, and James Heekin, chairman and CEO, McCann-Erickson WorldGroup, to serve, respectively, as chairman and vice chairman of the AAAA board of directors for 2002-03.
Comcast takes steps to ensure customer privacy
Comcast Corp. issued a statement last week assuring subscribers it will immediately stop recording the Web browsing activities of each of its 1million high-speed Internet subscribers. The company said it will stop storing the information “in order to completely reassure our customers that the privacy of their information is secure.” The Associated Press reported last Tuesday that Comcast had started recording customers’ visits to a Web page as part of a technology overhaul to save money and speed up the network. Comcast moved quickly to reassure customers that their information had been stored only temporarily.
Stanley, ’60s TV executive, dies
Jerome Stanley, the longtime NBC executive once charged with overseeing such classic series as “Star Trek,” “Get Smart” and “The Monkees,” passed away at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Feb. 7 of natural causes. He began his 25-year career at NBC in 1956, eventually becoming VP of film programs. He also served as VP of NBC productions, where he was responsible for series such series as “Bonanza.” In 1981Mr. Stanley served as VP of current programs for MGM Television, supervising production of all network TV, including “Fame,” “CHiPs” and “Chicago Story.” He is survived by a daughter, Lynne Dowling, former senior director of broadcast standards at NBC, and a son David Stanley, a founding partner of independent production company Stone Stanley Entertainment. The family requests no phone calls, and in lieu of flowers donations can be made to Congregation Beth Meier in Studio City, Calif.