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Briefly Noted

Feb 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The six news organizations that made up the recently dissolved Voter News Service made it official last week. They have formed the National Elections Pool (NEP) and have hired Mitofsky International and Edison Media Research to provide exit-polling data and winner projections for the 2004 general elections and early presidential primaries. The Associated Press-which is again partnered with CNN and the news divisions of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC-will collect vote totals for the same elections. Warren Mitofsky is a veteran of more than three decades of conducting exit polls and quick counts. Joe Lensky of Edison has a decade of exit-polling experience. The partners will have full editorial control and oversight of NEP, according to the announcement.
Ownership hearings added
Commissioner Michael Copps of the Federal Communications Commission last week announced there will be at least two additional field hearings in March on proposals to relax the agency’s media ownership rules, with the first to be held at the University of Washington in Seattle and the other at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Mr. Copps, a Democrat, said that he invited all four of the agency’s other commissioners. But at deadline Michael Powell, the agency’s GOP chairman, said he wasn’t planning to attend, in part because the agency has already fielded 13,000 comments from the general public on the issue. “The record clearly demonstrates that in the digital age, you don’t need a 19th Century whistle stop tour to hear from America,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Copps also said he asked the agency to set up a way to allow industry critics of deregulation to testify anonymously without fear of retribution. “I hear privately that speaking out on this issue would cost many people their careers,” Mr. Copps said. “I recognize that this [anonymous testimony] represents challenges for a public proceeding, but so, too, does a climate of fear that chokes off needed input for important decisions.”
MSNBC planning Ventura talk show
Jesse Ventura, the wrestler-turned-governor-turned-media-hopeful who has been talking and teasing for weeks about the prime-time talk show he will have on MSNBC, got a drum roll but did not advance the subject when he “announced” the MSNBC show during an appearance Wednesday on “The Tonight Show.”
In an internal memo, MSNBC President Erik Sorenson said, “Now that his hiring is confirmed, we’ll begin to assemble a staff and determine many of the logistics related to this program. There is no official start date yet, nor are we prepared yet to announce exactly where in our lineup the governor will appear.”
Mr. Ventura has said he will continue to live in Minnesota, where his term as governor just ended, until at least June, according to Mr. Sorenson, who promised details to come soon and did not address the talk that the Ventura show might be set at the Mall of America. Numerous sources familiar with the strategy at MSNBC say the news network plans to put Mr. Ventura’s show at 10 p.m. (ET) and still hopes to build a new show-part newscast, part “Donahue,” part “Larry King Live”-around Sam Donaldson, whose duties at ABC News have been effectively limited to radio since George Stephanopoulos replaced Mr. Donaldson and Cokie Roberts last fall on “This Week.”
Younger president of BV Worldwide TV Distribution
Seventeen-year Walt Disney Co. veteran Laurie Younger has been named president of the company’s Buena Vista Worldwide Television Distribution arm. Ms. Younger will now be responsible for domestic and international distribution of creative content produced by Disney, including films, television series, made-for-TV movies, miniseries, TV animation and direct-to-videos.
In addition, Buena Vista Productions, which creates and develops programming for first-run syndication, reports to Ms. Younger, who in turn reports to Walt Disney Co. President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Iger. She most recently was executive VP of Television Distribution for ABC, and also served as senior VP and chief financial officer for ABC.
Taylor joins ABC
ABC Entertainment named Lance Taylor senior VP of current programming. The newly created position puts Mr. Taylor in charge of a re-established four-person current programs department at the network. Mr. Taylor joins ABC from Fox, where he had been senior VP, current programs, since September 1997 and oversaw such series as “That `70s Show,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “The Simpsons” and “24.” In his last six months at Fox he was a consulting producer with the network. Mr. Taylor will report to ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne.
Government fines Gemstar-TV Guide
Gemstar-TV Guide International and the Department of Justice reached a settlement last week that will require the company to pay a $5.67 million fine to resolve the government complaint against it. Justice had alleged that Gemstar and TV Guide jumped the gun by getting together before their merger passed federal muster and consummated in July 2000.