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Jun 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Bauer-Gonzales to take KCAL, KCBS news director roles

The buzz in Los Angeles for the past week has been that KCAL-TV news director Nancy Bauer-Gonzales will assume the role of news director for both KCAL and KCBS-TV. A CBS spokesman declined to comment. The official announcement may come as soon as the end of this week.

Viacom bought KCAL from Young Broadcasting recently and put KCAL General Manager Don Corsini in charge of both stations. Mr. Corsini has worked well with Ms. Bauer-Gonzales at KCAL, and both are savvy in the Los Angeles TV news war. Ms. Bauer-Gonzales left her news director job at rival KNBC-TV only last August and jumped immediately to KCAL, and some in the market expect her to give her old station a run for its money by helping ratings-challenged KCBS get competitive.

Current KCBS News Director Princell Hair is expected to stay within the Viacom family. Mr. Corsini has been quietly meeting with KCBS staffers, who have been beleaguered with the constant change in management, and the word is many seem impressed with his leadership style.

Tauzin, Upton ask for repeal of cross-ownership rule: Two influential House lawmakers urged the Federal Communications Commission today to repeal the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule, which prohibits the common ownership of a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee, said the growth of media since 1975, when the rule was adopted, makes it obsolete. “We believe this explosion of media sources should eliminate any concern regarding a lack of diversity of views in the marketplace and competition, which have been [among] the principal justifications for the rule,” they wrote FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

The letter comes less than two weeks after Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., and two other Senate Democrats raised very different concerns in a letter to Powell. The Democrats said they’re worried about media concentration and lack of program diversity and asked the agency to prepare a report on the issue.

Family Friendly Programming Forum to fund three new series: The Family Friendly Programming Forum, a consortium of over 40 major advertisers, has given its seal of approval in funding of three new series — two comedies and a drama — destined for broadcast networks’ fall 2002 schedules. The Forum, which was founded three years ago and put its initial dollars behind the script development of The WB’s acclaimed “Gilmore Girls” drama, has its Script Development Initiative funding behind The WB’s “Family Affair” (8 p.m. ET Thursday) and ABC’s “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” (8 p.m. Thursday) sitcoms. Initial pilot script funding also is going to NBC’s hour-long drama, “American Dreams” (8 p.m. Sunday).

Each of the four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and The WB) participating in Forum, which is backed by the Association of National Advertisers, receive seed money to underwrite the development of new scripts that appeal to a broad family audience. Each network independently administers its own development process and decides whether a script funded by the Forum will go to pilot. If a script does get picked up, the network reimburses the Forum so that the money can be “redeployed” to develop more family friendly scripts.

Media First Intl. joins Interpublic family: The Interpublic Group has added Media First International, a New York based media agency with an office in Minneapolis, to its roster of companies. The agency, which will continue to be headed by Richard Kostyra, its founder, president and CEO, will operate as a stand-alone unit within Interpublic’s The Partnership division and report to David Bell, Interpublic vice chairman. Media First’s clients include Burger King and Northwest Airlines.

Film Roman, Mongadillo Studios team to develop ‘Shawks’: Film Roman, the Hollywood animation studio known for Fox’s “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” has entered an agreement with Internet-based content provider Mongadillo Studios to develop original Web cartoon “Shawks” as a television series.

“Shawks,” which took second place for its pilot episode in the 2001 Animation Magazine’s World Animation Celebration Festival, is a social satire detailing the struggle of four brave 8-year olds to rid the world of its most evil foe — sharks masquerading as people. Links to the 14 complete online episodes are available at www.shawks.net. The series will be targeted to kids-oriented broadcast and cable networks.

The show was created by writer/voice actor, Loren Hoskins, who provides the voice of one of the lead characters.

UPN gains rights to broadcast MGM films: MGM Worldwide Television Distribution Group has sealed a one-year renewal agreement with UPN to extend the Viacom-owned network’s broadcast rights of 52 additional titles of MGM feature films, which will begin airing this September in UPN’s Saturday afternoon block.

The UPN deal secures clearances with roughly 86 percent of the country through its affiliate body. Generally titles air between noon and 2 p.m. (ET) but can vary in certain local markets. MGM sells the national ad time and splits the revenue with UPN. The affiliates retain all of the local avails and recoup all ad sales revenues as part of the shared revenue arrangement with MGM and UPN.

UPN will continue to broadcast the celebrated films on all of its affiliated stations.

Feature titles in the revised pact include “The Bounty,” “Mad Max,” “Class,” “Rocky V,” “Blood Simple,” “Secret of N.I.M.H.” and “Babes in Toyland.”

Since the launch of the new programming block in August 2001, “The MGM/UPN Weekend Movie” has averaged more than 1.5 million viewers each week, representing an 8 percent increase viewers compared to the 1999-2000 Saturday afternoon movie matinee, “The UPN Movie Trailer.”

Lehman Bros. lowers estimates for AOL Time Warner: AOL Time Warner is apparently not a beneficiary of what appears to be a more robust than expected upfront advertising market. Lehman Brothers analyst Holly Becker lowered her earnings estimates for the beleaguered media company today, saying, “AOL will have a more sustained downturn in online advertising” and that a potential turnaround will come later than originally thought.

AOL Time Warner now is expected to garner $1.8 billion in advertising revenue, which is 34 percent less than Ms. Becker’s prior estimate and down from an estimated $4.6 billion a year ago. The company’s overall 2002 revenues will be up only 5.5 percent to $42 billion and total earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will be up only 2.7 percent to $9.6 billion, she said.

After the analyst’s report, AOL Time Warner’s battered stock fell 6 percent to about $17 a share in mid-day trading, just above its 52-week low. The drop also may have been partly due to a Vanity Fair article that reports on how an angry outburst by Vice Chairman Ted Turner during an AOL Time Warner board meeting late last year heavily contributed to the abrupt retirement of Gerald Levin as CEO. Although AOL Time Warner spokespersons say the story is “not factual,” others close to the company say Mr. Turner did strongly challenge Mr. Levin’s leadership during a board meeting. However, sources say it would take more than Mr. Turner’s loud complaining and the widely speculated corporate unrest to lead to Mr. Levin’s recent departure.

Binzel vacates NCTA post: Peggy Binzel has resigned as executive vice president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, effective June 30, to become chief executive officer of CoreNet Global, an Atlanta-based association for corporate real estate executives.

Kurtis renews contract with A&E Network: Documentary producer and on-air anchor Bill Kurtis has renewed his contract with A&E Network. Mr. Kurtis, who has been associated with A&E for more than decade, hosts “American Justice” and hosts and executive produces “Investigative Reports” and “Cold Case Files.” Terms of the renewal w
ere not disclosed.

Report claims Turner inspired Levin’s departure from AOL Time Warner: Ted Turner was the catalyst that led to the departure of Gerald Levin from AOL Time Warner, an upcoming magazine article charges.

The founder of CNN and the largest individual shareholder in AOL TW, Mr. Turner also is famously volatile. At an AOL TW board of directors meeting last fall, Mr. Turner banged his fist on the table and shouted that Mr. Levin was responsible for destroying the company’s stock value and demoralizing its employees, according to an account in the new issue of Vanity Fair magazine that was quoted in a Reuters wire service report. That board meeting preceded the surprise announcement of Mr. Levin’s plan to retire from his post as CEO of the merged media giant.

“Turner’s direct attack on Levin that day forced AOL Time Warner’s board of directors to see the obvious: Levin had to be replaced, fast,” an unnamed insider source told the magazine, according to the wire service account.

Retirement was Mr. Levin’s “own decision,” an AOL TW spokeswoman said when asked about the magazine’s account. Speculation to the contrary is “not factual.”

Hollywood’s Lew Wasserman dies: Lew Wasserman, the Hollywood mogul who led MCA, which then owned Universal Studios, for more than half century, has died. He passed away Monday from complications following a stroke. He was 89.

During the era that he ran MCA, which was founded as a talent agency by Dr. Jules Stein, the company evolved from an agency into the pre-eminent television studio in Hollywood, known particularly for its one-hour dramatic series, and a powerhouse in the world of film.

For most of the period that he was the company’s chairman, Mr. Wasserman, whose distinctive thick-framed black glasses set a fashion trend for Hollywood’s power brokers, wielded singular power and influence. While he personally avoided the limelight, and was famous for avoiding the press, he was for decades a factor in national politics.

Mr. Wasserman was both a major donor to the Democratic party and a long-time personal and professional associate of then-President Ronald Reagan, whom he had once represented as an agent. From the 1940s onward, Mr. Wasserman was a close adviser to the young actor who would one day become president, and that relationship continued both when Mr. Reagan headed the Screen Actors Guild in the 1950s and when he entered politics in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, it was a phone call from Mr. Wasserman, many students of the industry believe, that convinced President Reagan not to overturn the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, which benefited the studios and producers at the expense of the networks.

Showtime renews ‘Queer’; HBO sets ‘Sex’ date: Showtime has renewed “Queer as Folk,” its controversial look at the lives of a group of gay men and lesbians, for two more years, while HBO has set a July 21 premiere date for the new truncated season of “Sex and the City.”

The “Queer” renewal encompasses 32 hour-long episodes and the new “Sex” season will be only eight episodes long, according to reports in Daily Variety. “Sex” production had been delayed by star Sarah Jessica Parker’s pregnancy.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications