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Jul 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

PTC settles wrestling lawsuit

The head of the Parents Television Council, a media watchdog group that opposes sex, violence and so-called “coarse language” on television, has published a personal letter of apology on the organization’s Web site as part of an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit brought by World Wrestling Entertainment.

As part of the settlement, WWE, formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation, also will receive $3.5 million, according to a WWE statement. A PTC spokeswoman declined to comment on the specifics of the settlement or on the WWE’s assertion that it would be paid $3.5 million.

The lawsuit centered around PTC’s now-retracted contentions, made both publicly and to WWE advertisers, that children “mimicking ‘professional wrestling’ moves they saw on television” had been responsible for the deaths of other children. That claim also had been advanced as part of the defense in the trial of 12-year-old Lionel Tate, who was convicted in 2001 in Florida of the murder of six-year-old Tiffany Eunick. The Tate case defense was specifically cited by the PTC in its campaign against the WWE.

In his public letter of apology, L. Brent Bozell, PTC’s head, said, “I now believe that professional wrestling played no role in the murder of Tiffany Eunick, which was a part of our ‘Clean Up TV Now!’ [fund-raising] campaign, and am equally convinced that it was incorrect and wrong to have blamed WWE or any of its programs for the deaths of the other children.”

Mr. Bozell’s letter also conceded that “various statements made by [Media Research Center], PTC and me were inaccurate concerning the identity and number of ‘WWE Smackdown!’ advertisers who withdrew support from the program. Many of the companies we stated had ‘withdrawn’ or pulled their support had never, in fact, advertised on ‘Smackdown!’ nor had any plan to advertise on ‘Smackdown!'”

‘Division’ picked up for third season: Viacom Productions’ “The Division,” about a group of female San Francisco police officers, has received a 22-episode order for a third season. The series is executive produced by Deborah Joy Levine and stars Bonnie Bedelia, Nancy McKeon, Lisa Vidal, Tracey Needham, Taraji Henson and Jon Hamm.

NBC repurposing Court’s ‘Forensic Files’: Call it reverse repurposing with a twist. NBC will air eight episodes of Court TV’s signature “Forensic Files” series for four Sundays, Aug. 25 through Sept. 15.

Six of those episodes will be recent repeats, which fit the definition of “repurposing.” Two, however, will premiere on NBC. They are “A Bitter Pillow to Swallow,” about a pregnant woman who suspects her fiance doctor is poisoning her, debuting Aug. 25 on the Peacock Network; and “Within a Hair,” about techological developments that affect the outcome of serial rapist case, debuting on Sept. 8.

The Court-to-NBC move is the first example of a major broadcast network buying repurposing rights for a current cable network show, and it extends the relationship the two networks have forged for NBC’s “Dateline” news magazine, which regularly airs jointly produced content derived from Court’s trial coverage.

NBC will air the back-to-back half-hour episodes of the true-crime series as lead-ins to its two-hour Sunday night Dick Wolf-produced block, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Crime & Punishment.”

“Forensics” follows crime scene specialists and forensic scientists who use scientific techniques to solve actual crimes. The series is produced for Court by Medstar Television.

‘Love, Hate & Joy’ set on ABC Family: ABC Family will telecast “Love, Hate & Joy,” five half-hours hosted by “The View’s” Joy Behar, on five consecutive nights beginning Aug. 11.

“L,H & J” is being billed by the network as a “comedic look at the many faces of love, from dating to divorce.” Guests on the specials will include comedian/actors Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo and Whoopi Goldberg and rocker Gene Simmons of Kiss.

Director John Frankenheimer dies: John Frankenheimer, the distinguished Hollywood feature-film director (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “Seven Days in May” and “Birdman of Alcatraz,” among many others) whose TV career spanned a half century, and who revitalized his career with four consecutive Emmy-winning made-for-cable movies in the mid-1990s, has died in Los Angeles. He was 72.

Mr. Frankenheimer’s four Emmy-winning TV films, all fact-based, were “Against the Wall” (HBO), about the Attica prison uprising; “The Burning Season” (HBO), about an Amazon rain forest activist who was murdered; “Andersonville” (TNT), about a notorious Civil War prison camp; and “George Wallace” (TNT), about the segregationist governor turned presidential candidate who was paralyzed by an assassin’s bullet.

Mr. Frankenheimer’s most-recent made-for-cable project was this year’s “Path to War,” HBO’s critically well-received docudrama focusing on the path of escalation that President Lyndon Johnson took in the Vietnam War.

Mr. Frankenheimer passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he had undergone recent spinal surgery, succumbing after a stroke.

Pelton wishes not to testify: The former CNN reporter who interviewed John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban, last December at a prison hospital in Afghanistan, has asked a federal judge in Virginia to quash a subpoena from Mr. Lindh’s attorneys.

Attorneys for the reporter, Robert Pelton, contend that calling him to testify at Mr. Lindh’s upcoming trial on charges of conspiring to murder U.S. citizens would affect his “safety and rights independently to gather news,” according to an Associated Press report, while attorneys for Mr. Lindh contend that Mr. Pelton was in effect acting as a government agent when he interviewed the injured and medicated Mr. Lindh in the Afghan hospital.