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Mar 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Siegel, Turrell Exit TBS in Kent Restructuring

New Turner Broadcasting Systems Chairman and CEO Philip Kent has moved quickly to put his mark on the Turner TV empire, restructuring its operating units so that they are more integrated and promoting Mark Lazarus to head the newly created entertainment unit.

Tthe restructuring has resulted in two executives’ leaving the company: Bradley Siegel, until now the head of the Turner general entertainment networks, and Brad Turrell, the public relations executive most closely associated with Jamie Kellner, Mr. Kent’s predecessor.

David Levy, until now co-president of TBS International, has been promoted to Mr. Lazarus’ former post as head of both entertainment sales and marketing and Turner Sports. In addition, CNN News Group President Jim Walton will head the newly formed news unit, with additional oversight of a new global advertising sales group. The head of the newly formed cartoon unit will be named later.

The head of each new unit with have direct oversight for programming, marketing, advertising sales and other business functions.

“These changes will help us make quicker and better decisions with more accountability and a greater feeling of ownership of results for each management team,” Mr. Kent said in a statement.

Savage Tamer in MSNBC Debut: Controversy paid off Saturday with an initial viewership bump for The Savage Nation, the talk show MSNBC granted to right-wing shock talker Michael Savage. The premiere hour averaged 503,000 viewers. That wasn’t enough to get MSNBC out of deep third place in the time slot (Fox averaged 1.351 million viewers and CNN 1.014 million in the same hour), but it was an improvement of 98 percent over the year-to-date average for the time slot, not including the Saturday of the Columbia shuttle crash. Among adults 25 to 54, Savage ranked deep third but improved MSNBC in the time slot by 89 percent over the quarter-to-date-minus-shuttle Saturday.

In his TV debut, Mr. Savage kept his rhetoric to less-inflammatory levels than what he says on radio or in some of his writings about women, homosexuality and people of color, among other subjects.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation continues to urge the public to send protests to national companies whose commercials appeared within the show but failed again to get the meeting it has sought with network executives.

“Unfortunately, we cannot agree to conditions mandated by NBC News today that would bar us from talking about the content or outcome of the meeting with our constituents, our coalition partners, or the media,” GLAAD said in a statement. “It is inconceivable an operation like NBC News would not have the integrity to publicly state it would hold Savage accountable to its current standards and practices regarding news content, as it does all other NBC, MSNBC and CNBC on-air talent.”

NBC said in a statement, “We’re disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to meet with GLAAD to listen to their issues and concerns. Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree on the conditions for a meeting. We considered this to be a private meeting for a serious discussion. We remain hopeful that a meeting can still take place.”

A spokesman for MSNBC said the news network will be “talking to advertisers this week to see what their comfort level is, and we are confident that as the show develops their comfort level will grow.

ABC Execs Lobby FCC to Block Fin-Syn Revival: Top ABC TV network executives were making the rounds at the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday in an effort to derail proposals to resurrect a form of fin-syn regulation.

A growing coalition of representatives from Hollywood’s creative community said rules that would bar TV networks from owning up to half of their programming are needed to ensure that some independent programming still makes it to the air. But ABC TV executives told FCC officials that the proposals lacked justification.

“There’s no legal basis and no factual basis for the FCC to get back into fin-syn,” said Preston Padden, The Walt Disney Co. executive VP for worldwide government relations, in a briefing with reporters. Alex Wallau, president of the ABC Television Network, also said that ABC currently had no financial stakes in 42 percent of its prime-time program schedule this week and that competition for the best programming would prevent networks from getting interests in all their shows.

But Jonathan Rintels, executive director of the Hollywood creative community’s Center for the Creative Community, said ABC was the “poster child” for why rules are needed. “A few years ago, they publicly announced that they would schedule no independent programming but produce their entire prime-time schedule in-house using Disney’s Touchstone Television,” Mr. Rintels said. “Furthermore, they have eliminated diversity by re-running their Disney-produced ABC programming immediately on the ABC Family Channel.”

UPN to Sell ‘Smackdown’ Ad Time: UPN renewed “WWE Smackdown!” in a multiyear agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment that will allow UPN to sell the advertising time. Under its previous agreement, UPN paid a license fee to WWE and WWE sold all the advertising time. With the new deal, UPN will pay WWE a license fee. “Smackdown” is UPN’s highest-rated show among total viewers and across almost all key adult and male demographics. It also ranks third among persons 12 to 34 on Thursday nights, behind CBS and NBC.