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Jul 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

KCBS’s Diaz hired by KABC

KCBS-TV has hired popular Laura Diaz away from KABC-TV, where she has spent 19 years, the last five as anchor of its 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. Don Corsini, the general manager of the KCBS-KCAL duopoly, said Ms. Diaz will become “the lead female anchor at Channel 2,” though he was not ready to talk about which two shows a night, presumably, she will anchor and where other KCBS anchors will be scheduled once the Emmy-winning Ms. Diaz starts, most likely in September.

Although her primary assignment will be to KCBS, Mr. Corsini said that what contributed mightily to Ms. Diaz’s decision to make “the leap of faith over to Channel 2” was his plans to make her a “cornerstone” in the duopoly — her participation with specials on both stations, a key role on such programs as Latin Grammy preshows are among the prospects he mentioned — and a commitment for her to appear on CBS News programs “48 Hours” and “The Early Show.”

A skilled reporter before she was an anchor, “She brings a lot to the table,” said Nancy Bauer-Gonzales, news director for KCBS and KCAL, who had made an unsuccessful attempt to bring Ms. Diaz to her station when she was news director at KNBC-TV. “It just wasn’t the right time.”

Mr. Corsini said a “heavy promotional campaign” for Ms. Diaz, including print, radio and cross-promotion on KCAL, will start in August. The hope is that Ms. Diaz, a first-generation Mexican-American born to field laborers in Santa Paula, Calif., who was reared in northern Los Angeles County and is very active in the Latino community, will bring her following with her.

Meanwhile, plans for the consolidation of the KCBS and KCAL workforces continue. Construction is under way at KCBS AT Columbia Channel 2 to accommodate KCAL staffers, who will make the move in two waves, the first in August and the second, the transfer of news, is targeted for September. (KCAL will become the radio studio when the Viacom-owned radio stations move out of Channel 2.)

There has been much public speculation about cutbacks expected to result from the consolidation of the two stations. Mr. Corsini and Ms. Bauer-Gonzales said some of the reports have been particularly “exaggerated” and none can be accurate because final totals have not been determined.

“When people quote numbers, they’re inaccurate, because we don’t know,” said Ms. Bauer-Gonzales.

Fox, Court TV feud over fugitive capture: A dispute has broken out over James Sullivan, the fugitive recently apprehended in Thailand who is charged with hiring a hit man to murder his wife in 1987.

The dispute is not a jurisdictional one, between nations or even police agencies. Instead, it’s a battle between two reality-based TV shows — Fox Broadcasting’s “America’s Most Wanted” and Court TV’s “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice” — over which deserves credit for Mr. Sullivan’s apprehension.

In this particular battle over bragging rights, “Most Wanted” has no less than the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its corner.

The contretemps began just before the Fourth of July fireworks, when Court and “PP&J” took credit for wielding the media spotlight that led to the arrest of Mr. Sullivan in Thailand. Approximately two weeks before, on the debut episode of “PP&J,” Mr. Dunne had focused on the Sullivan case. Court even compared Mr. Dunne to John Walsh, host of Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted,” which for years has been instrumental in bringing fugitives to justice by putting them on TV.

Not so fast, said a Fox spokeswoman, producing an FBI press release announcing Mr. Sullivan’s capture and commending, in addition to other law enforcement agencies, including the Atlanta Police and the Royal Thai Police, “America’s Most Wanted,” which the release said was “extremely helpful in this case.”

“Most Wanted,” said the FBI, had profiled Mr. Sullivan several times, most recently last May. Subsequently, “Several tips were received from people in the United States and Thailand that Sullivan was residing in Thailand,” said the FBI statement.

“In this case, credit should go to ‘America’s Most Wanted,'” said an FBI spokesman, who emphasized the value of the media in bringing the public’s attention to criminal cases. “But I don’t want to slight anyone else.”

AOL stock dips despite banks’ support: Even strengthening its hand with $10 billion in new bank credit facilities wasn’t enough to help AOL Time Warner’s sagging stock, which closed down 4 percent Monday to $14 a share. The company said the “backup liquidity” for its commercial paper programs consists of a $6 billion, five-year revolving credit facility and a $4 billion, 364-day credit facility (with a two-year option). It comes at a time when investors are concerned about whether the media giant’s$28 billion debt will hinder its ability to grow its businesses. While it takes pressure off of AOL Time Warner’s bonds, analysts said they don’t expect the funds to be tapped to dissolve the Time Warner entertainment partnership. AOL Time Warner’s long-term bonds have traded down in recent weeks.

Twenty-seven financial institutions, led by ABN AMRO Bank, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Citbank and JP Morgan Chase, pledged $12 billion in commitments. “These new bank facilities provide us with sufficient resources and flexibility to both operate our businesses and take advantage of strategic opportunities over the next few years,” said AOL Time Warner Chief Financial Officer Wayne Pace.

Koppel beats Maher: It appears that more people in metered markets would rather watch Ted Koppel talk to David Letterman, the CBS late-night host to whom ABC had tried to give “Nightline’s” time slot, than watch Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect.” The debut of “Up Close,” a half-hour interview show anchored by Mr. Koppel and designed to follow “Nightline” until the Jimmy Kimmel late-night hour debuts on ABC in January, featured Mr. Letterman’s first public comments since he spurned ABC’s offer and chose to stay at CBS — “I’m really quite comfortable here,” Mr. Letterman said. The half-hour averaged a 3.2 rating/9 share in metered markets, up 33 percent over Mr. Maher’s overnights in that 12:05-12:35 a.m. slot on his final four Mondays (2.4/7).

CNN International to run Stewart show: Jon Stewart is getting a half-hour weekly show on CNN International this fall. “The Daily Show: Global Edition,” on which the best topical jokes and segments of the week from Mr. Stewart’s show on Comedy Central will be repeated, is scheduled to debut Sept. 21 on CNNI. Billed as a late-night satirical review, it will not be available in the United States.

CNN and Comedy Central, which is co-owned by Viacom and CNN parent AOL Time Warner, will decide which of each week’s segments are most suited for the international audience.

“Jon’s unique lens on America, together with his quick wit, intelligent parody and sharp social commentary, will appeal to our late-night weekend viewers,” said Rena Golden, executive VP and general manager of CNN International.

Showtime greenlights Greenspan’s ’72 Olympics memories: Showtime has given the green light to “The 1972 Munich Olympic Games: Bud Greenspan Remembers,” a 90-minute documentary commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, where on Sept. 5 eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by Arab terrorists.

Mr. Greenspan, a noted sports documentarian, was an NBC radio reporter at the Munich games. Showtime will telecast the documentary in September.

ESPN OKs Bear Bryant film: ESPN has given the green light to “The Junction Boys: How Ten Days in Hell with Bear Bryant Forged a Championship Team,” its second original, made-for-television movie, which will premiere Dec. 14.

“Junction Boys” is the fact-based story of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s harrowing Texas A&M preseason college football training camp in desolate Junction, Texas, in the mid-1950s, and of the 35 boys out of more than 100 Aggie hopefuls who lasted through the heat and grueling practices.

NBC to air holiday cartoons: NBC has picked up the broadcast rights to a pair of “classic” holiday cartoons, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and “Here
Comes Peter Cottontail,” for airing during the 2002-03 season. “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” returns to NBC in the fall of 2002, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the program’s first airing on the Peacock Network in 1962. “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” is slated to air next spring.

Both specials come to NBC through Classic Media, which manages some of the world’s most recognizable family-oriented properties across all media, including feature film, television, home video and consumer products. The company’s extensive library features a diverse collection of popular animated and live-action characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Mr. Magoo, Richie Rich, Peter Cottontail, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Lone Ranger, Lassie, Underdog, Little Lulu, Pat the Bunny and Lamb Chop.

Batchelor to replace Sucke at SAG: The Screen Actors Guild has named Hollis Batchelor deputy national executive director for organizing, education and branch management, filling a soon-to-be vacancy from the retirement of John H. Sucke, a 28-year New York-based SAG veteran who announced his retirement today.

In his new post, Mr. Batchelor will continue to be based in the Guild’s Miami office. Mr Sucke will remain New York executive director until his October retirement, but will continue to serve in a consulting role as part of a transition process at New York offices throughout 2002 and 2003.

Since starting with Screen Actors Guild in 1978, Mr. Batchelor has served as claims representative, assistant Florida director and Florida executive director. Through his work, he is credited by the union with being instrumental in convincing the state of Florida to establish rules and regulations pertaining to the employment of minors in the motion picture industry.

Prior to joining SAG, Mr. Batchelor was assistant director of the Florida Department of Corrections’ Human Relations Program and was a paralegal for the Florida Prison Project. He is a past president of Film Florida, an alliance of motion picture industry professionals.

Mr. Sucke most recently served as SAG’s executive director and deputy national executive director for organizing, education and branch management.

During his tenure, Mr. Sucke served in a variety of positions, culminating with his appointment as New York branch executive director in 1985. Last October, Mr. Sucke added to his branch director responsibilities those of deputy national executive director for organizing, education and branch management.

Rainbow green lights N.Y. dating show: Rainbow Media’s MetroTV subsidiary has given the green light to a second season of “To Live and Date in New York,” its reality-based look at the Big Apple singles scene that follows real New York single women as they navigate through swanky nightspots with real blind dates. The new order is for eight one-hour episodes.

The new season, produced with September Films, a company specializing in documentaries and reality-based projects, will air locally on MetroTV in the spring of 2003 and then go national on sister channel WE: Women’s Entertainment in fall 2003.

WE also is in production on “Single in LA,” a companion project set for summer 2003. Metro is holding an open casting in New York City July 18 for young single women who are dating. Details are available at the MetroTV Web site www.newyorkmetro.com.

Sci-Fi unveils two new projects: Sci-Fi Channel has gone to the vaults of parent company Universal for new programming based on pre-existing Universal television and theatrical titles.

Sci-Fi will develop a two-hour backdoor pilot based on “Quantum Leap,” the time-travel series that starred Scott Bakula (“Enterprise”), and has ordered a one-hour series for 2003 that will be based on “Tremors,” the witty 1990 monster movie that starred Kevin Bacon and spawned two sequels.

The projects were announced by Bonnie Hammer, the network’s president, at the semiannual Television Critics Association press tour, now under way in Pasadena, Calif.

Mullally, Stevenson cast in Lifetime’s ‘Pact’: Actresses Megan Mullally (“Will & Grace”) and Juliet Stevenson (“Truly, Madly, Deeply”) have been cast in “The Pact,” Lifetime Television’s upcoming movie about two families affected by a teenage suicide pact.

The two women will play the mothers of the two teens. “The Pact” is based on a novel by Jodi Picoult and will be directed by Peter Werner (“We Were the Mulvaneys,” “Ruby’s Bucket of Blood”).