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Briefly Noted

Oct 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Touchet in position as Wald exits ‘Today’
Jonathan Wald, who has had a rocky 11/2 years at the helm of NBC News’ “Today” show, is being replaced as executive producer of the network’s cash-cow morning show. NBC News is said to be in negotiations with Tom Touchet, a former ABC News special events producer who was a key producer on “Good Morning America,” which trails rival “Today” by upward of 1 million viewers but which shows momentum. It is uncertain when there might be a deal with Mr. Touchet or what Mr. Wald will do next. There was no immediate comment from NBC News.
Neal Shapiro, president of NBC news, e-mailed news of the change to staffers late last Thursday and said Mr. Wald would continue to run the show “as we prepare for a transition.” Mr. Shapiro said the network is taking to Mr. Wald about “other important opportunities.” Mr. Wald was coming off a successful run as executive producer of “NBC Nightly News” when he took over “Today” in May 2001. He had a tough act to follow in Jeff Zucker, who was promoted to NBC Entertainment president after a stellar run as executive producer of “Today.”
Gemstar management shake-up
Gemstar-TV Guide International CEO Dr. Henry Yuen and Chief Financial Officer Elsie Leung resigned last week. Jeff Shell, a former News Corp. cable sports executive, will become CEO and Paul Haggerty, currently a News Corp. financial executive, becomes acting CFO. News Corp. owns 42 percent of the Pasadena, Calif.-based Gemstar, which has been the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of its accounting practices. A management shake-up at the company had been expected for months. Gemstar is best known for its interactive program guide, its VCR Plus system and its eBook. Dr. Yuen will receive approximately $22 million and Ms. Leung approximately $7 million as termination payments under their existing contracts.
Corbi among Hallmark layoff casualties
Hallmark Channel laid off approximately 130 staffers last week, including Lana Corbi, president and CEO of Crown Media United States, which operates the channel. That’s about 30 percent of the channel’s work force. Approximately 80 staffers were cut in Greenwood Village, Colo., and the remainder are being cut from the company’s international staffs in New York and Los Angeles, according to an insider. David Evans, president and CEO of Crown Media Holdings, the channel’s corporate parent, is assuming the responsibilities formerly held by Ms. Corbi, who will be a consultant through the end of the year.
Perret loses post in L.A. duopoly integration
KTTV and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles eliminated KCOP news director Larry Perret’s position last week in a move designed to continue the integration begun when the Fox and UPN stations became a duopoly last year under Fox ownership. KTTV News Director Jose Rios will pick up the slack and serve as news director at KCOP as well. All the stations’ departments, from sales to finance to promotions, are now reporting to one department head. News was the last department to integrate, said David Boylan, VP and general manager for the stations. “This isn’t really about Larry Perret but about a strategy to have a single department head,” Mr. Boylan said. “As we get closer to the ability to move resources and share resources it is a lot better to have one person to oversee operations.”
Mr. Perret joined KCOP in May 2000 and helped boost the local newscast’s ratings. Some of his innovations included the reduction of sports from four minutes to one minute of video-driven, highly produced coverage and weather from four minutes to two. The final step in integrating KTTV and KCOP will be combining the locations, a move that won’t happen until some union issues are ironed out, Mr. Boylan said.
Melnick promoted at 20th
Steven Melnick was promoted to the newly created position of senior VP of marketing at 20th Century Fox Television, from VP of media relations and advertising. He will be responsible for overseeing the marketing activities of the studio’s current roster of 19 prime-time series. He will also continue to oversee the studio’s publicity department and will assume oversight of the studio’s research department.
Lee selected to head CBS Affiliates Board
Bob Lee, president and general manager of Schurz Communications-owned WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va., is the new chairman of the CBS Television Network Affiliates Advisory Board. Newly promoted Freedom Broadcasting President Doreen Wade is the chairman-elect and can expect to succeed him in two years. Elected district representatives are Scott Blumenthal, general manager of LIN Television’s WISH-TV in Indianapolis, and John Ray, general manager of Gray Television’s WRDW-TV in North Augusta, S.C. Usually there are 11 district representatives, but the group is currently minus one director due to the recent exit of General Manager Al Bova from Meredith-owned WFSB-TV. An election to fill the spot is scheduled for early 2003, but an interim director may be appointed, Mr. Lee said.