Briefly Noted

Mar 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Discovery Networks president resigns
Johnathan Rodgers, the well-regarded president of Discovery Networks U.S., has announced his resignation, calling the decision “amicable” and made for “personal and positive reasons.” Mr. Rodgers said he is interested in joining a start-up network targeting African Americans but that no such deal was “firm now.” In a phone conference with reporters, Mr. Rodgers characterized himself as a “fixer and a builder” who had come to Discovery six years ago when it was valued at just $1 billion and had two channels. Now, he said, he’s leaving a company valued at $12 billion that has 11 channels.
As for Mr. Rodgers’ replacement, he said there are a “lot of good internal candidates.” He added that the company had hired an executive search firm and that Judith McHale, president and chief operating officer of Discovery Networks, would be the in-house executive leading the search.
Tauzin-Dingell broadband bill pases
The so-called Tauzin-Dingell broadband bill passed the House of Representatives last week by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, but the legislation is expected to face stiff opposition in the Senate. The measure removes regulatory hurdles so the Bells can more easily compete against cable in the potentially lucrative broadband business, but critics consider it a giveaway to the Bells while they still have local phone monopolies. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., called the bill “blasphemy” and a “false start.” He added: “I’m trying to break up the monopolies. Tauzin-Dingell is trying to extend the monopolies.” He vowed to strongly oppose it in the upper chamber.
FCC’s Powell irks lawmakers of both parties
Two of the Senate’s most powerful lawmakers are not pleased with the way Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell is doing his job. “The chairman over there thinks he’s not supposed to do anything but get rid of the FCC,” Senate Commerce panel head Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., said after a hearing on digital content issues. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss, addressing a National Association of Broadcasters conference in Washington, lashed out against the FCC, accusing it of being slow to act-and moving in the wrong direction when it does. “I have urged the chairman, `Just act, do something.’ I think Congress needs to express our concern,” he said. The critique was unusual because Mr. Powell, a fellow Republican, rarely faces criticism from members of his own party.
Monday Night Football changing lineup
In the second booth-cleaning in three seasons, John Madden is in as Al Michaels’ partner, and Dennis Miller and Dan Fouts are out. Melissa Stark will be back as a sidelines reporter, but Eric Dickerson will not. Last Wednesday, Fox Sports gave Mr. Madden, who had one year left on his contract, permission to talk to ABC Sports. A little more than six hours later, Mr. Madden was headed for prime time with the TV football franchise that has struggled with eroding ratings and the universal search for younger viewers. Mr. Fouts is still under contract to ABC Sports.
Lachlan Murdoch deeper into TV biz
In keeping with his promise to move his heir apparent around the News Corp. empire, Chairman Rupert Murdoch has appointed his son, Lachlan Murdoch, to the board of directors of Fox Entertainment Group. Mr. Murdoch, 30, is expected to play a more active role in the television stations and network operations of FEG. He succeeds Chase Carey, who recently resigned. Mr. Murdoch will remain deputy to News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, who is considered the most immediate seasoned potential successor to the founding chairman, who at 70 says he’s not about to step down.
Lawmakers ask NBC to drop hard-liquor ads
Thirteen lawmakers sent a letter to NBC last week urging the network to reverse its decision to air hard-liquor ads. “We would hate to see your network become the object of a public backlash against network hard-liquor advertising or the reason that Congress steps in to protect the public interest and the airwaves by setting up a federal regulatory system for network advertising,” they wrote. The signatories included Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.; Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.; and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. Other signers included Rep. Connie Morella, D-Md., and Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. NBC insists it has taken steps to air hard-liquor ads responsibly.
MTV to debut new digital channels
MTV Networks is launching four new 24-hour digital channels, bringing MTV’s total digital offering to 13 channels. The new channels are MTV Hits, VH1 Mega Hits, MTV Jams and Nicktoons TV. MTV Hits will target 12 to 24 demographic with pop acts. VH1 Mega Hits will air `90s hits. MTV Jams, which replaces MTV X on the digital tier, will feature rap, R&B, hip-hop and soul. Nicktoons TV, which will replace Nick Too on some West Coast systems, will air animation from Nickelodeon. Cablevision, the New York tri-state area’s big multiple system operator, is the first MSO to sign on for services from the new package.