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Apr 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, April 8, at 4:40 a.m. (PT); last updated at 2:15 p.m.

Dark days over for ‘Nightline,’ statements say

The “Nightline” fire that started when it was learned ABC had hoped to hire David Letterman and install him in the “Nightline” time slot seem to have been doused. ABC released statements Monday from anchor Ted Koppel and Disney President Robert Iger indicating renewed support for “Nightline” for “years to come.”

The statements followed private conversations, which no one was available to discuss Monday afternoon, so it is uncertain just what ABC parent Disney has “Nightline’s” anchor and crew that Mr. Koppel would then declare the crisis “so warmly and enthusiastically resolved at the highest levels of the corporation,” or what constitutes “years to come.”

In a message delivered to “Nightline’s” staff and ABC News and then released to the press, Mr. Iger said: “The Walt Disney Co. and ABC have always valued ‘Nightline’ for the important role it plays for the network and in the national discourse. That value is particularly underscored in difficult times like these. In light of recent events, we want to renew and reaffirm our support for ‘Nightline,’ one of the network’s signature programs. We look forward to working with ABC News to make a strong program even stronger in the coming years. We are confident that ‘Nightline’ will continue to set a high standard for television journalism for years to come.”

Mr. Koppel’s statement said: “It is especially gratifying for me and everyone at ‘Nightline’ to have questions about the future of the broadcast so warmly and enthusiastically resolved at the highest levels of the corporation. For our part, my colleagues and I renew our commitment to making ‘Nightline’ the best news program it can possibly be.”

ABC News President David Westin, who had been blindsided by the Letterman courtship and its implications for “Nightline,” issued a statement saying: “We are all pleased to bring this issue to a close. A lot has been written and said about ‘Nightline’ in the past weeks; what remains unchanged is ‘Nightline’s’ and ABC News’ unswerving dedication to excellence in broadcast journalism.”

WGA and CBS reach agreement: The Writers Guild of America and CBS have reached a tentative three-year deal on a contract covering news employees in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

Approximately 400 CBS writers, editors, graphic artists, desk assistants, promotion writers and promotion producers are affected.

The new contract, which still requires ratification by the WGA membership, includes 3 percent annual salary increases, increases in acting-editor and chief-desk-assistant fees and automatic enrollment of all temporary employees into the WGA health fund and pension plan.

The weekend settlement followed last week’s vote by WGA members to authorize a strike against the network.

NBC may have acted too quickly on liquor ads, says Tauzin aide: NBC’s recent decision to pull the plug on liquor advertising may have been based on the misperception that federal lawmakers were planning to crack down on the practice in congressional hearings. At least that was the analysis offered by Ken Johnson, an aide to Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., during a session at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas today.

But according to Mr. Johnson, the hearings were intended to consider whether it made sense to subject liquor and beer ads to different scrutiny. “NBC got a little bit spooked,” said Mr. Johnson. “They overreacted a little bit to the thought of us holding a hearing.”

At a separate session, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the committee was “extremely concerned” about the proposed merger of EchoStar Communications and DirecTV. “That obviously is monopolistic in nature,” Rep. Sensenbrenner said.

Wallace to ease up: Mike Wallace, who will turn 84 on May 9, is going to try to slow down. Mr. Wallace, a founding co-editor of the 34-year-old CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” told The New York Times that he will cut back on his work load next season. As reported in the April 8 issue of Electronic Media, Mr. Wallace has been telling insiders that he intends to do only eight stories next season for “60” and perhaps two for spinoff “60 Minutes II.” Some of those same insiders note that Mr. Wallace said he would be cutting back this season, and yet he leads the “60” pack with 15 stories and is on track to finish the season with 20 (the normal load for a “60 Minutes” correspondent) to his credit.

Those who know Mr. Wallace point out that as much as he loves “60’s” summer-long vacations, he also loves adrenaline and a good story. “If you have to do 25 stories, he’s done 30,” said one person familiar with the Wallace work ethic. “He always does more.” Mr. Wallace didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Ryan names CNN senior staff: Teya Ryan, who was recently named executive VP and general manager of CNN/U.S., has chosen her senior staff and their assignments.

Bob Brienza, a former NBC News producer who helped Ms. Ryan develop several shows at CNNfn, is VP of network programming. He will supervise the development of all programming, from specials to daily series. He also will serve as liaison to the CNN on-air promotions department and to CNN sales on programming issues.

Another CNN veteran, Mary Lynn Ryan, who most recently helped Ms. Ryan make over CNN Headline News, will be managing editor and will be responsible for daily editorial decisions. Atlanta newsroom supervisors and executive producers will report to her. Executive producers in Washington and New York will work closely with her.

Instant specials will be the domain of Kim Bondy, the former NBC weekend “Today” executive producer who recently was named a VP at CNN. Kelvin Davis continues as senior director of editorial operations, but will add organizational management of all newsroom personnel, including writers and copy editors, to his duties.

Don Smith, another key member of the team that helped Ms. Ryan revamp CNN Headline, has been named to the new position of senior executive producer of on-screen editorial. Vivian Schiller will continue as senior VP of CNN Productions.

CNN veteran Sue Bunda, a senior VP of CNN/U.S., will oversee all bookers and talk shows. Also joining Ms. Ryan’s team will be Kimberley Adams Chandler as manager of network and talent operations in Atlanta, New York, and Washington and of the makeup department, program updates and traffic coordination on schedule changes. The changes were announced to the CNN staff last week.

KCBS report leads to guilty pleas for auto dealership employees: As a result of KCBS-TV investigative reporter Joel Grover’s work, four former employees at one of the largest dealerships in California, Gunderson Chevrolet, pleaded no contest Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court in a case involving padding contracts and other sales tricks. Three of them will serve six months in county jail.

The case marks the largest criminal indictment against employees of an auto dealership in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, and the first time that employees of a car dealership have been criminally prosecuted for common sales tricks. Mr. Grover completed his initial piece in May 2000.

In February, a fifth former Gunderson employee was sentenced to 90 days in county jail. In today’s announcement, former Gunderson General Manager James Hoban received a sentence of six months in jail plus five years probation, a $2,500 fine, plus 32 hours of trash cleanup with Caltrans, said a Los Angeles District Attorney spokesperson. Two others remain defendants awaiting trial. The dealership is now under new management.

Mr. Grover will appear on CBS’s “Early Show” Wednesday to discuss the story.

WB keeping ‘Flix From the Frog’ in place: Historically lacking much of a Sunday ratings presence with TV series programming, The WB has announced that its “Flix From the Frog” movie showcase, which started last Sunday night (7 p.m. to 9 p.m., ET), will stay in place through the remainder of the 2001-02 season. Such big box office-gross
ing movie titles as “The Mummy” (to air May 5) and “Stepmom” (May 12) are getting play on The WB, which acquired the television rights as part of an overall deal with its sister Turner networks TNT and TBS.

Jordan Levin, president of The WB’s entertainment division, said the addition of movie showcase on Sundays will give the network a stronger promotional and programming platform into the May sweeps. He said “Flix From the Frog” will provide a better lead-in to “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” and “Off Centre” — a pair of current Sunday sitcoms that have been scheduled for 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. runs as of April 7.

As part of an effort to address some other weak spots in The WB’s schedule, “classic” episodes from the first season of “Gilmore Girls” will return to its original 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Thursday berth as a lead-in to original episodes of “Charmed.”‘

“Glory Days” has concluded a ratings-challenged midseason run on Monday nights, with new episodes of “Angel” set to return in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. slot April 15.

PBS launching ‘Frontline/World’: PBS will expand on its critically acclaimed investigative series “Frontline” by premiering an international edition, “Frontine/World,” to launch at 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) Thursday, May 23. The limited run, to be co-produced by WGBH-TV in Boston and KQED-TV in San Francisco, will continue through early 2003.

Stephen Talbot, a former producer with KQED and a veteran of “Frontline” and the Center for Investigative Reporting, will helm “Frontline/World” as series editor. David Fanning is the executive producer. Sue Ellen McCann from KQED and Sharon Tiller from WGBH are executives in charge of “Frontline/World” at their respective stations.

“Frontline/World,” headquartered at KQED, will air in “Frontline’s” normal Thursday time slot. The hour-long magazine-format program will offer a forum for reporting on global issues and will build, in part, on the mentoring partnership that has paired “Frontline” producers with younger journalists — many of them from other countries — at the University of California’s Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Major funding for “Frontline/World” is provided by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by ABB Ltd., The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation.

Univision to televise World Cup games: Univision Communications, the largest Spanish-language media company in the United States, announced plans to broadcast all 64 soccer games of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) 2002 World Cup Korea/Japan live through its networks Univision, Galavision and the recently launched Telefutura.

The tournament, which takes place May 31 through June 30, consists of 64 matches. Of those, 56 will be carried live on Univision; TeleFutura will broadcast the eight remaining games live, along with the other 56 matches on a tape-delayed basis. In addition, Univision’s cable network, Galavision, will air 25 “Match of the Day” telecasts, featuring a selection of the best games of the tournament.

Court TV shuffles execs: David Epstein, formerly VP of prime-time planning and proposals at ABC, has been named Court TV’s senior VP of pricing and operations; and Brad Westermann, formerly A&E’s senior VP of national sales, has been named Court TV’s senior VP of advertising sales for the network’s regional offices.

Both executives will report to Charlie Collier, Court TV’s executive VP of advertising sales, who announced that Andrew Budkofsky will be joining the network as director of ad sales and that Allison Bodenmann, presently VP of marketing, has been named VP of new business development, a new position at the network.

Fox wins key Sunday demos: Fox’s long-running comedy staples-Futurama” (2.3 rating/8 share), “King of the Hill” (3.4/10), “The Simpsons” (6.1/17) and “Malcolm in the Middle” (5.9/15)-won every half-hour frame in adults 18 to 49 from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. (ET) Sunday night. However, competition got a bit tougher at 9 p.m., as Fox’s “The X-Files,” which wraps up in May, had third-ranked scores in adults 18 to 49 (4.3/10) and total viewers (9.2 million) for the 9 p.m. hour.

From 9 to 11 p.m., NBC’s special repeat run of “50 Years of NBC Late Night” took the two-hour span in adults 18 to 49 (5.4/13) and total viewers (14.0 million) in a warm up for the Peacock’s 75th anniversary-themed programming to air during the May sweeps.

Fox took the night in both adults 18 to 49 (4.4/12) and adults 18 to 34 (4.7/14). NBC came in second in adults 18 to 49 (3.8//10), followed by ABC (3.6/9) and CBS (3.3/9).

Networks plan nostalgia specials for sweeps: Looking to emulate the ratings success of “The Carol Burnett Show” reunion special that aired during last November’s sweeps period, the networks are firing up their nostalgia machines for the upcoming May sweeps (April 25-May 22).

On top of CBS announcing that the cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” will be reunited in a Monday, May 13, special (10 p.m. to 11 p.m., ET), ABC is putting up “TV Guide’s 50 Best Shows of All Time” in the same time slot that night.

Ms. Burnett is scheduled to make another nostalgic turn April 27 in “CBS … 50 Years from Television City,” a look back at “All in the Family,” “Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” and other shows that were produced in the network’s Los Angeles studios. CBS also has scheduled at 50th anniversary tribute to the “Honeymooners” for May 6.

Back at ABC, the network is working with the syndicated “Entertainment Tonight” for a May 7 “Laverne & Shirley” reunion special while also teaming up with E! Entertainment on lead-out special “Favorite Stars Then and Now” that night. Dick Clark will be host of a 50th anniversary look back at his long-running “American Bandstand” music series.

NBC, tying in with its 75th anniversary celebration throughout the sweeps, is scheduling tributes and reunion shows around Bob Hope (April 30), “The Cosby Show” (May 19), an “L.A. Law” telefilm (May 12) and the 10th anniversary edition of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (April 30). The Peacock is also planning a live three-hour special (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) celebrating NBC’s 75 years in broadcasting, showcasing past clips from entertainment series, sports and news events, to originate from New York’s Rockefeller Center, which will be produced by “Saturday Night Live” show runner Lorne Michaels.

Meteorologist Leonard leaving WHDH to team with WCVB’s Albert: Chief Meteorologist Harvey Leonard of Boston NBC affiliate WHDH-TV is moving to ABC affiliate WCVB-TV. WCVB will now have the two most veteran and most watched weathermen in town, pairing Mr. Leonard with chief meteorologist Dick Albert, who has been at the station for more than 20 years.

The deal was finalized Friday. Because of a noncompete clause, Mr. Leonard, who has been at WHDH since May 1977 and is known for his accurate weather forecasts, won’t be seen on the air until Aug. 15.

Mr. Albert, who has worked all the evening newscasts, asked management several months ago to be taken off the 11 p.m. news to lighten his workload. Mr. Leonard will do weather for the 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. news while Mr. Albert will do the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news.

“[Mr. Leonard] and Dick Albert are very dear friends and have fantasized for years about working together,” said WCVB General Manager Paul LaCamera. “It is expensive, but we take our weather service seriously, and we have the two pre-eminent meteorologists now in the marketplace. I think the viewers of New England are going to benefit enormously with these two pros working together.”

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications