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Oct 17, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Thursday, Oct. 17.

Legislation would force broadcasters to underwrite political ads

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced legislation Wednesday that would require broadcasters to pay spectrum fees to help underwrite advertising for national political candidates.

Under the measure, co-sponsored by Sens. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., broadcasters would pay up to 1 percent of their gross annual revenue to create a $750 million fund that candidates and their parties could tap to buy political ads on TV and radio stations every two years. Another provision in the bill would require broadcasters to air at least two hours a week of “candidate-centered or issue-centered” programming before elections. In addition, the measure requires broadcasters to give candidates the same favorable advertising rates they give their best commercial advertisers.

“By increasing the flow of political information, free air time can better inform the public about candidates,” Sen. McCain said.

But broadcasters are vowing to fight. “The reality is broadcasters are offering a tremendous amount of free air time, and the challenge is to get candidates to accept our offers of debates and other opportunities,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.

The broadcast industry has easily beaten down free-time initiatives by Sen. McCain and other lawmakers in the past, in part because most incumbent politicians oppose the concept behind the scenes, fearing it would level the playing field for their challengers. “If you have 99 percent name recognition in your district, the last thing you want as an incumbent is to give your challenger free time on broadcast stations to challenge you,” one broadcast industry source said.

ABC gives ‘Lopez’ back-nine as Wednesday solidifies: In an important vote of confidence, ABC issued a full-season’s order for sophomore sitcom “George Lopez.” “Lopez,” now an integral 8:30 p.m. (ET) player in ABC’s resurgent Wednesday night lineup, earned a nine-episode back order to carry it to full-season’s complement of 22 episodes. The extension is an important validation for “Lopez,” which started as a midseason entry on March 27, 2002.

Last night’s telecast of “Lopez” marked the second week in the row it has won its time slot in adults 18 to 49 (5.3 rating/14 share) and held all of its “My Wife and Kids” lead-in (5.3/16), beating NBC’s second-ranked “Ed” drama (3.6/10) by a healthy 47 percent margin. The Hispanic ensemble sitcom also beat CBS’s “60 Minutes II” by a 14 percent margin in total viewers (12.7 million vs. 11.1 million), according to final Nielsen Media Research national data.

The first two weeks of “Lopez’s” season-to-date average in adults 18 to 49 (5.2/14) has marked a 7 percent improvement over what “Whose Line Is it Anyway?” in the comparable year-ago span.”George Lopez,” from producers Bruce Helford, Deborah Oppenheimer and Robert Borden as well as actress-producer Sandra Bullock, is produced by Mr. Helford’s Mohawk Productions and Fortis Films, in association with Warner Bros. Television.

Of the remaining Wednesday night programming, last night’s 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. airing of “The Bachelor” took home its second consecutive weekly victory over NBC’s “The West Wing” (5.9/15 vs. 5.1/13) by a 16 percent margin. “West Wing,” though down almost one-quarter from its year-ago ratings in key demo, still beat “The Bachelor” in total viewers (15.9 million vs. 12.5 million) by a 26 percent cushion. CBS’s “Amazing Race 3” finished third in the slot among adults 18 to 49 (3.9/10) and total viewers (9.1 million) but was up by single-digit percentages from the previous week in both measures. NBC’s trusty, 13-year-old “Law & Order” won the 10 p.m. closing hour in adults 18 to 49 (7.0/19) by almost two-to-one margins over ABC’s “MDs” (2.6/7) and CBS’s “Presidio Med” (2.5/7).

For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 (5.2/14), but ABC followed in close second-place pursuit (4.6/12). CBS came third in adults 18 to 49 (3.2/8), followed by The WB (2.5/7), the latter of which dropped 26 percent week to week after the premiere of “Birds of Prey” (2.7/7 vs. 3.9/10). UPN’s fourth-ranked 2.3/6 in adults 18 to 49 scored a 9 percent week to week uptick, as “Enterprise” shot up 24 percent (3.1/9 vs. 2.5/7) and “Twilight Zone” dropped 18 percent over the span (1.4/3 vs. 1.7/4).

Fox, airing an entire night of repeat programming, came in with sixth-ranked score in adults 18 to 49 (2.2/6).

ABC affils approve two-year plan:ABC Television affiliates have approved a new network-affiliate plan for the next two years in an effort to strengthen the company’s distribution system.

The agreement covers a range of issues, including continued financial support from affiliates for “Monday Night Football,” parameters on repurposing of network programming, additional prime-time advertising inventory for affiliates, inventory guarantees, assurances for affiliation agreement assignments and continued affiliate participation in ABC’s SoapNet.

The deal is slated to run through July 31, 2004.

VUE, Starz deal would be ‘dandy,’ says Malone: John Malone is fueling speculation of a Vivendi Universal Entertainment deal. Speaking at an event in New York Oct. 16 sponsored by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the chairman of Liberty Media Corp. said a combination of Liberty’s Starz/Encore pay TV operations with Universal Studio’s film library and the cable networks of Vivendi Universal Entertainment — all under the management of VUE chairman and CEO Barry Diller — would “be dandy.” VUE this week secured a $1.62 billion credit facility extension from its bankers through June 2003.