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Jan 6, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, Jan. 6

DeBitetto to head programming at A&E

Robert DeBitetto has been named senior VP of programming, A&E Network.

The appointment of the veteran executive removes a question mark that has hung over the network since last summer. That was when Allen Sabinson abruptly resigned from the chief programming post in the wake of falling ratings at the arts and entertainment network. The position has remained empty until now.

Mr. DeBitetto, who most recently served as president of original programming, Turner Network Television, will report to Abbe Raven, A&E’s new executive VP and general manager, who recently told Electronic Media that A&E would have a “significant” infusion of new programming development dollars and that it would continue to target the “upscale, better-educated dual audience that focuses on the 25 to 54 demographic.”

At Turner, Mr. DeBitetto oversaw TNT Originals and headed the team responsible for such projects as “Mists of Avalon,” “James Dean” and “Crossfire Trail,” as well as the development of “Witchblade.”

Lobbyist May leaves NAB for Air Transport: Jim May, the National Association of Broadcaster’s long-time top lobbyist, announced his resignation today as NAB’s executive VP to become president and CEO of the Air Transport Association. At deadline, NAB had yet to announce a successor to Mr. May, who is slated to begin his new job Feb. 3.

An NAB source did say Mr. May, 56, intends to stay on board at least through next week’s board meeting in La Quinta, Calif. “Even though Jim May did not come from our tribe, he very quickly developed great sensitivity to First Amendment and free speech issues, and he was certainly one of the most intelligent individuals in NAB’s high councils,” said Bill O’Shaughnessy, chairman of Whitney Broadcasting.

In a statement, Eddie Fritts, NAB president and CEO, said, “Under Jim’s leadership, NAB government relations became a catalyst for energizing our grassroots membership, and NAB is regarded as one of the most effective lobbying operations in Washington. Fortunately, Jim leaves the department in excellent shape, with a first-rate team of highly regarded professionals.”

Court, WE, Fine Living unveil projects: New documentaries from Court TV and WE: Women’s Entertainment and two new series from Fine Living, the newest Scripps lifestyle cable network, are among the early announcements at the Television Critics Association press tour, now under way in Los Angeles.The TCA, a semiannual industry ritual, features presentations to the nation’s assembled TV press by networks, both broadcast and cable, and syndicators, who unveil new programming and make stars and executives available for interviews and press conferences.

Court unveiled two new documentaries at TCA: “Al Roker Investigates: The Farmingville Incident,” which focuses on a hate crime on Long Island, and “Psychic Detectives,” a one-hour special about real-life psychics who help solve real crimes. “Farmingville,” hosted by Mr. Roker, the “Today” show personality, will premiere Feb. 12 and “Detectives,” hosted by Andrea Thompson, will premiere Feb. 27.

The new WE documentary is “TV & the Single Girl,” scheduled for March. The one-hour special will look at TV’s famous singles, from “Rhoda” and “Julia” to “Laverne and Shirley” and the glamorous women of “Sex and the City.”The new Fine Living shows featured at TCA are “Tricks of the Trade” and “Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa.”

“Tricks,” which premieres Jan. 27, offers inside information to consumers on how to pick among cellphone plans and plan vacations, among other topics. “Travels,” which debuts Jan. 30, is a showcase for Mr. Maxa, a prominent travel adviser. In addition, Court announced the expected renewal of “Forensic Files,” its signature series, and two new one-hour editions of its “Safety Challenge” specials, which ABC News will produce for the cable network.

Liguori becomes VP for ABC Owned Stations: Patricia Liguori has been named VP of research for ABC Owned Television Stations, a 10-station group that reaches nearly a quarter of the TV homes in the country. Ms. Liguori, who has been an executive at WABC-TV in New York since 1984 and who most recently was director of research for the network’s flagship local station, reports both to ABC stations group President Walter Liss and to WABC President Tom Kane.

Broadcast engineering veteran Mann dies: Tom Mann, a veteran broadcast engineering and new technology executive, died of an apparent heart attack Dec. 18 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 54. He was head of his own consulting and engineering firm, Weyercliff Century. Prior to that, he was with USA Broadcasting, Argyle Television, Walt Disney Television and WRC-TV.

CNBC to air AOL TW documentary: CNBC unveils its first original prime-time documentary 9 p.m. Thursday, when it telecasts “The Big Heist: How AOL Took Time Warner.” The one-hour program, turned out by newly promoted special programming executive producer Glen Rochkind, is hosted by Wall Street correspondent and “Squawk Box” regular David Faber, who talks to a veritable who’s-who of moguls past and present, inside and outside the AOL and Time Warner families — from Viacom chieftain Sumner Redstone to former HBO Chairman Michael Fuchs — about what went wrong and why.

Troutman takes post with CBS, UPN: Rhonda Troutman has been named VP of business affairs and administration for affiliate relations for CBS and UPN. Ms. Troutman, who will report to CBS Affiliate Relations President Peter Schruth, most recently was VP for business affairs at NBC Entertainment. She was previously VP of NBC Enterprises and, from 1993 to 1995, the director of worldwide legal and business affairs for HBO.

Gurin to produce pageants for NBC: Veteran reality and game show producer Phil Gurin will be executive producer of the maiden broadcasts of the Miss USA and Miss Universe telecasts on NBC under a new deal that makes NBC equal partners with Donald Trump in the Miss Universe franchise and which will include pageant telecasts on Telemundo. Mr. Gurin’s credits range from “Weakest Link” on NBC and “Lingo” on Game Show Network to “The World’s Most Incredible Animal Rescues” and “Candid Camera.”