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Oct 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 16

Election coverage M.I.A.

More than half of the newscasts on major-market local TV stations haven’t included stories on the elections this year. At least that was one of the key findings in a study released today by the Lear Center Local News Archive.

“Although both parties are focused on gaining control of the Congress, it is proving difficult for congressional candidates to get news coverage,” the center said. The study found that of 2,454 half-hour newscasts from the top 50 markets scrutinized from Sept. 18 through Oct. 4, 1,311 carried no campaign coverage.

On the broadcasts that did, the average campaign story lasted just over 80 seconds, with fewer than 20 percent including sound bites from candidates.

“If you only watched your local television news, you’d be hard-pressed to know there’s an election coming up,” said Paul Taylor, president of the Alliance for Better Campaigns, a group lobbying to force broadcasters to beef up campaign coverage.

Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said, “Poll after poll shows that real-life voters believe broadcasters are doing a good job covering elections.”

Granada, Carlton make merger as overture to U.S. programmers: Just hours after sealing a proposed $4 billion merger between the United Kingdom’s two largest independent TV companies, Granada PLC and Carlton Communications, key Granada programming executives jetted to Hollywood on Wednesday to sell the U.S. production community on the value of doing joint productions with the newly united British powerhouse.

Joined by Antony Root, president of Granada Entertainment USA, leading U.K.-based Granada programming executives Simon Shaps and Paul Jackson highlighted a “new business model” of the company’s co-production initiatives with the U.S.-based broadcast networks and studios on these shores. In particular, Mr. Shaps came to Los Angeles to advocate bringing in British talent (in front of and behind the cameras), established scripted and nonscripted programming formats and low-cost production and joint licensing opportunities the combined forces of Granada and Carlton offer to U.S. programming suppliers.

Granada’s renewed interest in the U.S. market is fueled by the commercial broadcast network sales of hit U.K. reality series “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here” (to ABC) and the Brit-based sitcom “The Grubbs” (to Fox).

The more aggressive stance is in marked contrast to the last several years of retrenchment when it came to selling scripted series programming geared toward the six major U.S. broadcast networks. Several years ago, Granada mounted the expensive U.S. production of the British-based drama “Cold Feet,” which was canceled after just a few airings and left Granada considerably in the red.

“Certainly, we did learn a lot from that experience [on “Cold Feet”] in terms of doing all of the deficit financing on the project,” Mr. Shaps said. “We realized that it is too risky to do all of the deficit financing on these shores, and that’s why our new model has the [U.S.] network or studio partners carrying the [domestic] deficits in exchange for them to share in the dual-licensing revenue” in the United Kingdon and United States.

Granada, also historically known for its production of long-form scripted and nonscripted programming airing on the Public Broadcasting System and basic cable networks, has such high-profile long-forms as the remake of “Dr. Zhivago” (for PBS and WGBH-TV in Boston) in the post-production pipeline.

Mr. Shaps declined to comment on other long-form projects or capabilities Carlton brings to the table during the ongoing “quiet period” of the pending merger. He noted that regulatory approvals in British Parliament and other government agencies can take as long, or longer than what mergers take on U.S. soil.

iN Demand offers content to New York’s Time Warner Cable: Pay-per-view and video-on-demand provider iN Demand is providing digital content to Time Warner Cable of New York, the nation’s largest cable system and the top television market in the country.

TW will be getting 20 to 25 new Hollywood movies per month from the VOD provider, and at any given time up to 100 VOD movies will be available to digital subscribers. The most recent vintage VOD titles will be offered at $3.95 under TW’s “Movies on Demand” umbrella, with others going for $1.95. TV series, offered under a subscription video-on-demand umbrella, will include episodes of “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City,” among others.

Almost half of TW’s digital subscribers in the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island are expected to have access to the new service within the next few weeks, and by the end of the year all 500,000 digital TW subscribers in New York will be offered VOD and SVOD, according to the cable company.

Lifetime’s Graff upped to VP, public affairs: At Lifetime, Toby Graff has been promoted to VP, public affairs, moving up from director, corporate communications.

Ms. Graff, formerly deputy press secretary to then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, will be responsible for expanding Lifetime’s Washington-focused public affairs and public advocacy initiatives on behalf of women, including specifically the fight against breast cancer and the movement to end violence against women.

Ms. Graff will report to Meredith Wagner, Lifetime’s executive VP for public affairs and corporate communications.

Discovery hires creative agency: The Discovery Channel has hired its first outside creative agency, Atlanta-based BaylessCronin, a 4-year-old creative agency owned by Merkley Newman Harty & Partners, a part of Omnicom.

BaylessCronin will create campaigns to support Discovery Channel specials and series throughout 2003, as well as general network branding elements.

The agency’s current clients include Alabama Power, the Atlanta Hawks, Church’s Chicken, the Discovery Channel and Jefferson-Pilot.