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Jun 6, 2002  •  Post A Comment

AOL Time Warner denies Pittman is being wooed by Disney

AOL Time Warner and the Walt Disney Co. are denying speculation by the Drudge Report that Chief Operating Officer Bob Pittman is being wooed by Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner to become his second in command and eventual successor. Disney and AOL Time Warner have not had anything official to say on the matter, but Mr. Eisner has been under mounting pressure from his normally supportive board of directors to improve the media conglomerate’s financial performance, stock performance and all-around management. There has also been recent speculation that Mr. Eisner does not consider Disney President Bob Iger an heir apparent. Neither executive has commented. Given the intensified unrest and complex issues at AOL Time Warner, and Mr. Pittman’s wide-ranging theme park, marketing, radio and television experience, a fit at Disney could be intriguing for all concerned, some industry analysts concede.

CNN’s Dobbs under fire for terrorism-related comments: Contrary to what Lou Dobbs declared last night on “Moneyline,” CNN is not retiring “war against terror” in favor of “war against Islamists.”

Mr. Dobbs raised eyebrows and temperatures inside and outside CNN with the segment, which was not labeled commentary and which appeared in the first block of “Moneyline,” not at the bottom of the show where the anchor and managing editor’s commentaries generally appear.

Mr. Dobbs said, “Terror is not the enemy. It is what the enemy wants to achieve. So, on this broadcast, beginning tonight, we’re making a change in the interest of clarity and honesty.”

Mr. Dobbs defined Islamists as “radical Islamics who argue that all non-believers in their faith must be killed,” and said: “Let us be clear. This is not a war against Muslims or Islam or Islamics. It is a war against Islamists and all who support them, and if ever there were a time for clarity , it is now. We hope this new policy is a step in that direction.”

It was unclear whether Mr. Dobbs would refer in tonight’s commentary to the incident, which is said to have raised hackles abroad as well as in this country and inside CNN. Sources familiar with CNN policies said Mr. Dobbs has the leeway to refer to a “war against Islamists” in clearly labeled commentaries but that its use in ostensibly straight reporting would not be repeated.

A CNN spokesman would not comment on a conversation said to have been held between Mr. Dobbs and CNN News Group Chairman Walter Isaacson today about what is and isn’t appropriate verbiage.

“Lou’s comments during yesterday’s broadcast were made in an effort to shed light on the complexity of the issues and the importance of rhetoric. However, all of CNN’s programs including ‘Moneyline’ will continue to refer to the Bush administration’s policies and actions as ‘the war against terrorism’ and to all those targeted in these operations as ‘terrorists,'” said a CNN spokesman.

Mr. Dobbs was not available for comment by mid-afternoon today, but sources said that his Wednesday piece had fallen through some cracks had not been vetted by executives responsible for content.

In recent months, he has created controversy with multiple commentaries taking officials to task for indicting Arthur Anderson as a company rather than individuals for destruction of documents and other acts that came to light after the collapse of Enron. Mr. Dobbs argued in his commentaries that thousands of innocent Anderson employes would suffer if the government’s strategy resulted in the collapse of Anderson itself.

Derwin joins cast of ‘Life With Bonnie’: Mark Derwin has been cast as Bonnie Hunt’s TV husband in ABC’s upcoming “Life With Bonnie,” the Touchstone Television comedy on which Ms. Hunt is star, writer, executive producer and director. Brian Kerwin played the doctor-husband role in the pilot, but he was recently cut loose.

Mr. Derwin, well known to CBS daytime audiences for roles on “Guiding Light” and “The Young and the Restless,” co-starred with Ms. Hunt on her self-titled 1995 CBS comedy and has a number of prime-time guest-starring roles to his credit. He is represented by Innovative’s Adena Chawke.

NBA Finals get off to modest ratings start: With prognostications of a blowout NBA Finals series, and the Los Angeles Lakers winning the opener 99-94 over the New Jersey Nets, NBC’s Game 1 telecast registered a modest 10.6 rating/20 share household score and 15.8 million total viewers Wednesday night.

According to comparable Nielsen Media Research national data, the start of the NBA Finals is pacing somewhat lower than the 12.1/23 household and 18.9 million viewer tallies for the entire five-game Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers NBA Finals last year. However, if the Nets can mount a challenge in the best-of-seven series, the 2002 series could approach last year’s averages.

In any event, last night’s household score for the Lakers-Nets game (airing from roughly 9:20 p.m. to 12:07 a.m., ET) won the span, holding roughly a 49 percent cushion over CBS’s repeat of the 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. telefilm “Cupid & Cate” (7.1/12). Among adults 18 to 49, Game 1 of the Finals (6.9/22) scored roughly triple the ratings of mostly repeat fare on CBS, Fox and ABC.

NBC won the night in adults 18 to 49 (4.9/15), getting an assist from a repeat of “The West Wing” (2.5/8) during the 8 p.m. hour. ABC, which finished second on the night in adults 18 to 49 (2.8/8), got winning repeat scores from “My Wife & Kids” (3.2/11) and “According to Jim” (2.8/9) while seeing “Drew Carey” (2.7/8), “My Adventures in TV” (2.3/7) and the second night of reality series “Boston 24/7” (2.7/8) hold second-ranked scores to the basketball game.

CBS came in third in adults 18 to 49 (2.4/7), followed by Fox’s 2.3/7.

FCC forms spectrum policy task force: The Federal Communications Commission today announced the formation of a new agency task force charged with recommending changes in agency spectrum policy — a review that will affect broadcasting. “The examination is looking at all spectrum, to see how we can manage spectrum more efficiently,” an FCC spokeswoman said. In a statement, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said, “We must establish new ways to support innovation and the efficient, flexible use of spectrum.”

Krone returns to NCTA as executive VP: The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has hired David Krone as its new executive vice president, effective July 1. Mr. Krone, currently executive vice president for the YES Network in New York, was NCTA’s executive vice president from October 1999 through January 2000. He will succeed Peggy Binzel, who has resigned from the NCTA to become chief executive officer of CoreNet Global, an Atlanta-based association for corporate real estate executives.

Kartun to direct ‘Conan O’ Brien’: Allan Kartun, a veteran director of a variety of live television specials, award shows and comedy/variety series, has been named director of NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.” Mr. Kartun replaces Liz Plonka, who has left the New York-based talk show to relocate to the West Coast. Ms. Plonka was director of “Late Night” for seven years.

Most recently, Mr. Kartun directed the live broadcast of the first annual American Film Institute’s AFI Awards as well as the Golden Globes Arrival Special for NBC. In the past he has also directed AFI’s tributes to Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Taylor. Mr. Kartun has also helmed comedy specials for Robert Klein and Paul Rodriguez, “Backstreet Boys … For the Fans” and a number of projects for Comedy Central. In 1993, he directed the Emmy Award-winning “Bob Hope: The First Ninety Years” for NBC.

Coming out of the most recent May sweeps, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” continued to hold the post-“Tonight Show With Jay Leno” time slot by moving up 5 percent in total viewers (2.6 million), according to Nielsen Media Research national data. Additionally, “Conan” held its crown in the 12:35 a.m. to 1:35 a.m. time slot among adults 18 to 49 (1.2 rating/0 share 9).

Mr. Kartun’s deal was negotiated by attorney Jared Levine of Nelson, Felker, Levine and Dern.

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2002 by Crain Communications