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May 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

L.A. icon Dunphy hospitalized after heart attack

After a day of speculation at rival stations in Los Angeles, the now Viacom-owned KCAL-TV confirmed today on its 4 p.m. news that veteran anchor Jerry Dunphy, the Los Angeles icon who anchors that newscast, has been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. A statement from his family was read on the air: “It is with great sadness that we announce tonight that our beloved father is hospitalized after suffering an acute heart attack. He is now receiving intensive care. We ask that you join us as we pray for his recovery.”

Yesterday all the stations were buzzing about what happened, especially when he didn’t anchor the 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. newscasts. KTTV may have been the first station to report it, on its morning newscast today, followed by the other stations in town this afternoon.

UPN picks up three shows, new logo: A new logo — a lower-case UPN surrounded by an oval — marked the only major news to come out of the network’s upfront presentation today in New York.

UPN, as previously reported (EMonline.com, May 13), has slotted two new dramas — “Haunted” and “Twilight Zone” — to serve as 9 p.m.-to 10 p.m (ET) Tuesday and Wednesday lead-outs from “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and “Enterprise,” respectively.

“Haunted,” a co-production of Keith Addis’ Industry Entertainment, Viacom and CBS Productions, stars Matthew Fox (“Party of Five”) as a man who comes back from a near-death experience only to find out that he’s haunted by ghosts who help him solve crimes. “Twilight Zone,” from Trilogy Entertainment and New Line Television, is hosted by Forest Whitaker.

The only other tweaking to UPN’s schedule came with the pickup of the sitcom “Half and Half” to fill in the 9:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. closing frame of the network’s urban comedy lineup. The scheduling of “Half and Half” means that “The Hughleys,” which first started on ABC in fall 1998 and moved to UPN in 2000, has been canceled after four seasons on the air. A midseason back-order was also placed on “Abby,” which features Sidney Poitier’s daughter, Sydney Tamlia Poitier, as the ambitious producer of a popular sports program.

At the UPN presentation, which at 57 minutes in length was the shortest of the networks’ scheduling unveilings, CBS Television President and CEO and UPN overseer Leslie Moonves was introduced as the “Mix Master,” which left him to give out his “props” to Jazzy Jeff, the DJ introducing him.

UPN’s fall 2002 schedule follows:

MONDAY

8 p.m. “The Parkers” **

8:30 p.m. “One on One” **

9 p.m. “Girlfriends” **

9:30 p.m. “Half and Half” *

TUESDAY

8 p.m. “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”

9 p.m. “Haunted” *

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. “Enterprise”

9 p.m. “The Twilight Zone” *

THURSDAY

8 p.m. to 10 p.m. “WWF Smackdown!”

FRIDAY

8 p.m. to 10 p.m. “UPN Movie Friday”

* new show

**new time period

FCC gets tough on DTV transition: Hoping to signal a get-tough attitude about digital TV, the Federal Communications Commission today warned that stations that don’t meet the agency’s transition deadlines could lose their DTV licenses.

“The leash is short, as it must be,” said FCC Chairman Michael Powell.As it stands, all 1,288 of the nation’s commercial TV stations were supposed to launch DTV operations by May 1.

But to the chagrin of regulators, 909, or roughly 70 percent, had as of early this month requested waivers that would give them at least an additional six months to get their DTV operations on the air.

At a public meeting last week, however, the FCC proposed new rules to crack down on additional unexcused deadline absences.

Under the proposed regulations, stations that failed to flip their DTV switches by Nov. 1 this year could face admonishment, assuming they can’t demonstrate that their tardiness is due to legitimate financial hardship or other circumstances beyond their control.

Stations that aren’t on the air within another half-year thereafter could be fined. Stations that aren’t on the air within yet another six months could lose their right to launch DTV broadcasts altogether.

“If stations think that the commissioners are going to blink on this, they’re wrong,” said Ken Ferree, chief of the agency’s Media Bureau.

“The FCC is unanimous in its continuing commitment to drive the transition,” added the FCC’s Mr. Powell.

Also at its meeting, the FCC announced that it had decided to give nine network-affiliated stations in the top 30 markets an additional six months to launch DTV operations, even though agency rules said large-market stations were supposed to launch DTV operations no later than Nov. 1, 1999.

Nonetheless, FCC officials said the stations cited technical problems and other factors beyond their control.

The nine stations are: WBBM-TV in Chicago; KTVT-TV in Fort Worth, Texas; WTVJ-TV in Miami; KMGH-TV in Denver; KCNC-TV in Denver; KUSA-TV in Denver; WFSB-TV in Hartford, Conn.; WTIC-TV, also in Hartford; and WVIT-TV in New Britain, Conn.

On a related note, the FCC said that network affiliates in the top-30 markets are expected to operate their DTV facilities at full power.

The agency permits stations in smaller markets to operate their DTV facilities at reduced power levels, allowing them to save on their electrical bills, at least during the initial stages of the DTV rollout.

But the top-market stations are too critical to the transition to warrant the same consideration, the FCC said.

Parsons pledges revitalization of AOL Time Warner: In assuming his new post as chief executive of AOL Time Warner, Richard Parsons today diffused anger from dissident shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in New York by setting five goals for the embattled company. He pledged to revitalize the AOL online division, restore credibility with investors, “guard the integrity” of AOL Time Warner’s balance sheet, simplify the company, and re-energize its employees.

Mr. Parsons and Chairman Steve Case, who co-presided over the meeting at the Apollo Theater, did not detail how those goals would be accomplished. Mr. Parsons reminded investors that executive compensation has been modified to be based on the company’s performance, which has fallen far short of its own and Wall Street’s expectations in its first year as a merged entity. Acknowledging that “things did not go as planned the past year,” Mr. Case said AOL “has time” to get its broadband strategy on track given the industry’s slower than expected rollout of interactive services.

After an eloquent tribute from Mr. Parsons, outgoing CEO Gerald Levin offered no apologies, saying he would close his business career by lunching with his wife and son after the meeting, and “just fade away.” Shareholder complaints during the question-and-answer portion of the two-hour meeting ranged from service complaints about Road Runner to demanding more diversified representation on the board, which will conduct a retreat on Friday to discuss strategy. Mr. Parsons assured investors of the company’s liquidity and ability to service its $27 billion debt, but made no commitment to a public spinoff of its cable systems. “There are no Enron-like problems here,” said Mr. Parsons, who personally greeted shareholders as they entered the theater before the start of the meeting.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications