Briefly Noted

Apr 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

MSNBC re-brands as `America’s News Channel’
Struggling MSNBC has nicknamed itself “America’s News Channel” and wrapped its Peacock “bug” in a flag in a re-branding campaign aimed at selling the cellar-dwelling cable channel as “something uniquely American and fiercely independent.” In a two-page e-mail to MSNBC staffers last Thursday, MSNBC President Erik Sorenson’s offered thoughts that ranged from doomsday predictions (“It’s hard to imagine America won’t be struck again sometime, somewhere.”) to troop-rallying (“A new name for a new day and a new time”).
In between, Mr. Sorenson, who is bringing old-fashioned liberal Phil Donahue out of retirement to host a prime-time talk show this summer, slung mud at his competitors, Fox News Channel and CNN, for which MSNBC has been rendered a nonfactor by its low ratings. “Some news channels seem partisan, favoring one side over another (regardless of slogans or protestations to the contrary),” Mr. Sorenson wrote. “Some cut deals with foreign governments or foreign broadcasters so as to provide coverage on an international basis to foreign viewers [an allusion to CNN]. Others stack the deck with partisans from one side and offset them with patsies from the other [an allusion to Fox News]. But our channel is not partisan and has no agenda other than to serve the American people, serve our viewers-give them in-depth coverage and thorough analysis.”
“MSNBC is irrelevant,” said a spokesman for Fox News Channel, which has reigned as the most-watched news channel for two consecutive quarters and which has billed itself as “The network America trusts for fair and balanced news” since shortly after Sept. 11.
Still to come, said Mr. Sorenson, is the naming of an editor in chief- expected by many to be former New York Post editor and former “Politically Incorrect” executive producer Jerry Nachman. As for the mechanics of re-branding MSNBC, Mr. Sorenson said Val Nicholas-the MSNBC VP of advertising, promotion and marketing who hired former Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider as the voice of MSNBC last winter-will continue to be in charge of the effort.
NAB nabs fewer attendees this year
Attendance at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas last week was 95,000, down 16 percent from the 113,363 on hand for the event last year. An NAB spokesperson attributed the decline to a combination of factors, including a soft market for advertising and consumer reluctance to travel in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
`Osbournes’ continues to gain fans, ratings
“The Osbournes,” MTV’s genre-bending reality sitcom, is a bona fide hit that is still building popularity as of last Tuesday’s episode. Here are the head-banging numbers for the latest installment in the continuing saga of former Black Sabbath rocker Ozzy, his wife (and manager) Sharon and their kids, Kelly and Jack, at home in Beverly Hills and out on the road: Episode 6 clocked in with a 5.2 household rating and a 6.8 for persons 12 to 34. By comparison, Episode 5 did a 4.4 in households and 5.5 with the 12 to 34 demo. The premiere episode of the series earned a 2.8 in households and a 3.4 with 12- to 34-year-olds.
Reps ask for softer rules on political debates
A coalition of media interests led by CBS asked the Federal Election Commission last week to clarify whether or not a news outlet that sponsors a debate between political candidates and doesn’t precisely follow the agency’s rules will be penalized. Under the FEC’s rules, a news organization’s sponsorship of a debate can be considered an illegal campaign expenditure-and be punishable as a crime-if debate participants are not chosen according to FEC criteria. For example, the FEC rules might be violated if certain politicians-in some cases fringe candidates-are not allowed to participate. Other signatories to the petition are ABC, NBC, News America. (owner of Fox News programming), Belo, Cox Enterprises, Gannett, National Association of Broadcasters, Post-Newsweek Stations, Radio and Television News Directors Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Tribune Co. and the New York Times Co.
Arraras signs on with Telemundo
The Telemundo Network has signed anchorwoman Mar ‘a Celeste Arraras, a 10-year news fixture on competing Spanish-language network Univision, to host a newsmagazine and other news/information programming for the network and its soon-to-be parent company NBC. Ms. Arraras’ debut on Telemundo is scheduled for Monday, April 29, when the U.S.-based Spanish-language broadcaster premieres a new hour-long newsmagazine, “Al Rojo Vivo con Mar ‘a Celeste.” The show will air at 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) weekdays. Ms. Arraras will serve as anchor and managing editor of “Al Rojo Vivo.” As part of her deal, Ms. Arraras also will be executive producer of several Telemundo specials and will make occasional appearances in various NBC productions. Peter Jones will be senior executive producer of “Al Rojo Vivo.” Last October, NBC agreed to acquire 100 percent of the equity of Telemundo Communications Group from Sony Pictures Entertainment and Liberty Media Group. The Federal Communications Commission approved the transaction last week.