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Dec 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Wednesday, Dec. 4

FCC Chairman Powell to hold hearings on media ownership

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell announced late today that the agency will hold a field hearing on its media ownership regulations sometime in February in Richmond, Va. Michael Copps, a Democratic FCC commissioner, recently vowed to hold similar hearings on his own, chiding the chairman for failing to commit to come along for the ride. But in his statement today, Mr. Powell said he believed a field hearing would be worthwhile as the agency considers easing or eliminating many of the regulations that limit media ownership. “I agree that a local public hearing can provide value to our proceedings,” the chairman said. Hearing details are to be released later, according to the agency. In response, Mr. Copps said, “This is a good step forward. But I remain convinced we need to have other hearings in diverse venues to flesh out the record needed for this single-most-important decision the commission will make next year.”

Cable execs discuss graphic content on TV: Local TV news, with its sensationalism and if-it-bleeds-it-leads philosophy, is driving the depictions of graphic sex and violence on cable TV, according to Chris Albrecht, HBO chairman and CEO.

“At some point during an episode of ‘The Sopranos,’ have you ever flinched?” CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth, a parent as well as a newsman, asked Mr. Albrecht near the end of a panel at this week’s BroadbandPlus: The New Western Show, the cable convention now under way in Anaheim, Calif.

“I flinch at the news,” Mr. Albrecht replied. “I think the standard’s being set by what’s on local news and, to a certain extent, national news. There’s nothing more graphic than seeing what happens in reality.”

Perhaps no newsman-temporarily-turned-panel-moderator, no matter how serious and high-minded, who has the opportunity of questioning cable TV’s top programmers, would be able to resist also asking, What’s your favorite program not on your own network? And Mr. Griffeth, however reluctant, was no exception.

The head of HBO loves “The Late Show With David Letterman,” while Matt Blank, his counterpart at premium-cable competitor Showtime, is a “huge ‘CSI’ fan.”

In addition to HBO’s Mr. Albrecht and Mr. Blank (who allowed drolly that he was tempted to answer “When Animals Attack”), Rainbow Media’s Josh Sapan pronounced himself a “Six Feet Under” fan; Starz Encore Group’s John Sie, a self-confessed “news hound,” said he likes to tune in to CNBC and Fox News; and Fox Cable’s Tony Vinciquerra said he likes news, the “vintage” programming on TV Land, “The Sopranos,” “NYPD Blue” and “Law & Order.”

RealNetworks, Starz launch online movie service: RealNetworks and Starz Encore Group LLC announced today they will launch Starz On Demand, a broadband-based online subscription video-on-demand movie service featuring new movies. Slated to offer more than 100 unique movie titles a month, Starz On Demand will be available to consumers across the United States through RealNetworks’ RealOne platform and subscription service.

“We’re very excited that by using state-of-the-art encoding and secure digital rights management technology, coupled with a robust and growing retail distributor like RealOne, consumers across the United States can view very high-quality Starz On Demand movies on their PCs or TV sets via the RealOne Player,” said John J. Sie, founder, chairman and CEO of Starz Encore Group. “With our emphasis on theatrical movies, now all on demand for a low monthly fee, this service will fuel the growth of broadband, particularly cable modem sales.”

“We are delighted to launch this broadband-based online subscription video-on-demand movie service with Starz Encore to bring great movies to broadband users, including RealOne subscribers,” said Rob Glaser, founder and CEO of RealNetworks. “We see today’s announcement as a great next step for both our companies and for the entire broadband industry. Now the industry can distribute its valuable programming in new and innovative ways.”

ABC Family readies wedding special: ABC Family plans to launch a two-part special, “The One Real Wedding Special” (working title), in which viewers will vote via a toll-free number for the couple they would most like to see married on national television.

Five couples will be introduced in the first one-hour special, which airs Sunday, Feb. 9, 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), and they will share their stories of how they found each other. The couple with the most viewer votes will be married on the second installment of the show on Sunday, Feb. 16, at 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. after the premiere of the romantic comedy “The One,” an ABC Family original movie.

E! tops 80 million mark: E! Entertainment Television reached the 80 million-subscriber mark this November, it was announced today by Mindy Herman, president and CEO, E! Networks. The world’s only 24-hour, seven-day network dedicated to the world of entertainment, E! has steadily grown in popularity since it launched in June 1990. Available virtually everywhere in the United States, E! now reaches nearly 90 percent of U.S. households.

“Reaching the 80 million-subscriber mark is a wonderful cap-off to an amazing year at E!,” Ms. Herman said. “From our elaborate network rebrand initiative to our breakthrough series ‘The Anna Nicole Show’ to the launch of the E! International Network, and most recently, the unveiling of E! Studios, 2002 is definitely a year to remember.”

Memorial services set for Bistany, Keever: A memorial service for Joanna Bistany, a former ABC News executive who died Sunday after a long battle with cancer, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, in the Church of St. Thomas More, 65 East 89th St. in Manhattan.

A memorial service for former ABC sales executive Jake Keever, who died Nov. 28, is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 5, at 11 a.m. at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 5 Oenoke Ridge Road, New Canaan, Conn. A celebration will follow at the Woodway Country Club, 540 Hoyt St. (Route 1) in Darien, Conn.