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Nov 20, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Wednesday, Nov. 20

NBC’s Lack questions ABC News/CNN merger

Count Andy Lack, NBC president and chief operating officer, among those who are skeptical about a proposal to merge ABC News with cable’s CNN.

“It looks like two guys are jumping into each other’s arms because they want to save a buck,” Mr. Lack said in remarks at a Media Institute luncheon today in Washington. The Peacock Network already owns a cable news network of its own, MSNBC. And Mr. Lack said that ABC’s interest in CNN was clearly “following our model.” But according to Mr. Lack, NBC didn’t create MSNBC to save money. “We did it to get into the 24-hour news business,” he said. “No news organization had to go away to create MSNBC.”

Mr. Lack said that neither ABC News nor CNN would be apt to disappear following a merger. But he told reporters an ABC/CNN combination could diminish the TV news landscape. “What you worry about is you’re going to have a less vigorous news organization,” Mr. Lack said. “You hate to see deals like this come together based on bucks alone.”

An ABC source said Mr. Lack apparently has an “incredibly simplistic understanding” of some of what ABC and CNN have been discussing. “Any deal that is simply about money will not succeed,” the ABC source said. “It has to be a merger that creates an even more vibrant news organization.”

Granada, Touchstone bring British series to ABC: Granada Entertainment USA has partnered with Touchstone Television to bring the hit British series “Cutting It” to ABC. Written by Mark Perry (“Party of Five,” “Law & Order,” “The Wonder Years”) and directed by Jon Turteltaub of Junction Entertainment (“While You Were Sleeping,” “The Kid,” “Phenomenon”).

Mr. Turteltaub, Mr. Perry and GEUSA’s Ann Johnson will act as executive producers. “Cutting It” is set in the world of hairdressing in Atlanta.

McCarthy moves up at Viacom Plus: Lisa McCarthy has been promoted to executive VP, Viacom Plus, Viacom’s cross-platform sales and marketing unit.Ms. McCarthy moves up from senior VP, Viacom Plus, which she heads, and now will also direct Viacom Plus Regional Solutions, which offers integrated media programs for clients, using Infinity Radio, Viacom Outdoor, and Viacom’s 39 owned-and-operated CBS and UPN local television stations.

“Under Lisa’s direction, Viacom Plus has been a pioneer … in the cross-platform sales and marketing arena,” said Mel Karmazin, president and chief operating officer of Viacom, in a statement. “Among the most notable deals is last year’s $300 million campaign with Procter & Gamble, which involves 13 of our brands, and expanded in 2002 to $350 million-setting an all-time industry record.” Viacom Plus contributes approximately $1 billion to Viacom’s approximately $12.5 billion in annual advertising sales, Ms. McCarthy said recently.

Osher’s duties expand at Miramax: Bob Osher, co-president of production, Miramax, has received the additional responsibility of overseeing Miramax Television production. Mr. Osher will also co-head the company’s DVD, home video and television sales with Rick Sands, Miramax’s chief operating officer, it was announced today by company co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

In addition to his new responsibilities, Osher will continue to oversee the production department with Co-President of Production Meryl Poster. Osher will also continue to oversee physical production and business and legal affairs. He has been involved with Miramax Television since its inception in 1998 and has worked on projects such as the Emmy-nominated “Project Greenlight” and “Glory Days.”

Osher, who works out of Miramax’s Los Angeles offices, will continue to report directly to Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

Digital broadcasting pioneer dies: Margita White, former president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, died today at a Washington-area hospital after a long fight with cancer. She was 65.

Ms. White headed MSTV from 1988 to 2001. One of her top assignments was to help oversee the industry transition to digital. She was a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission from 1976 to 1979. From 1975 to 1976 she was director of the White House’s office of communications and an assistant press secretary to President Gerald Ford. She was also an assistant director of the U.S. Information Agency from 1973 to 1974 and an assistant to the White House communications director from 1969 to 1973.

Ms. White received the National Association of Broadcasters’ spirit of broadcasting award in 2001 and an American Broadcast Pioneer award in 1998. “Margita White was a genuine leader in the broadcast industry,” said David Donovan, MSTV president. “History will record that Margita’s vision, dedication and leadership led to the creation of digital broadcasting in this country.”

McEntire to host Country Music Awards: Country singer and television star Reba McEntire will once again host “The 38th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.” The three-hour awards show will be broadcast on CBS on Wednesday, May 21 (8 p.m. to 11 p.m., live ET/delayed PT). The special will be broadcast from its new venue, Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel.

The awards show is from Dick Clark Productions. Dick Clark and Al Schwartz are the executive producers.#