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Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

News Units to Share Baghdad Video

The five major U.S. television news organizations have struck an agreement that any video that can be uplinked out of Baghdad in the first 24 hours of the U.S. attack on Baghdad will be shared by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC/MSNBC.

Under the arrangement, unmanned cameras and uplink equipment atop the Iraqi Ministry of Information, the building from which all press work, will be left running when the media evacuates the building. That would presumably provide static shots of the immediate terrain around the complex, which would probably include some of the first targets of the U.S. military, until or unless the building is hit or the communications frequencies are jammed as expected.

If and when it becomes impossible to get a pool signal out of the ministry rooftop, there are alternatives in videophones, satellite phones and cellphones from other locations.

Meanwhile, NBC, ABC and Fox news crews left Baghdad overnight and were regrouping at assorted sites outside Iraq.

Among those still in position today to report firsthand on events in the Iraqi capital were contingents from CBS News and CNN and Peter Arnett, the Baghdad correspondent for National Geographic Explorer who also is filing live reports for MSNBC and NBC. Mr. Arnett told MSNBC anchor John Siegenthaler late this morning, even as the diplomatic end game was winding down, that he intended to stay put in Baghdad because, “I just want to see how this regime reacts to … invasion. There’s only one place you can see that, and it’s right here in Baghdad.”

Mr. Arnett, who was one of the hardy band of CNN employees who gave the only live audio reports of the first hours of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, said that while he is “glad the U.S. and Pentagon are concerned with our safety,” nonetheless, “I don’t feel a suggestion from the Pentagon is an order.”

“History is turning on this attack,” Mr. Arnett said. “I think there should be eyewitnesses.”

Meanwhile, President Bush scheduled an address to the nation today at 8 p.m. (ET). Among the early scheduling changes that occasioned: The CBS Evening News has been extended to an hour; ABC News will build a two-hour-plus special, featuring all of its big on-air guns, around the presidential speech; and Pax planned to pre-empt regular programming to air live MSNBC coverage of the speech.

Offsay to Leave Showtime: Jerry Offsay, Showtime’s president of programming, is leaving his post. His resignation takes effect at the end of the year. According to Mr. Offsay, “Last summer, I announced to [Matthew Blank, chairman and CEO, Showtime Networks] that after my 50th birthday I intended to leave Showtime. After numerous conversations with him, we agreed that we should make the announcement sooner rather than later.”At the end of the year, Mr. Offsay also will mark a full decade as Showtime’s president of programming. According to a network spokeswoman, he has spoken almost from the beginning of his tenure of a desire to retire at age 50. That birthday is imminent, the spokeswoman said.

According to the network, the early announcement of Mr. Offsay’s departure will permit Showtime to find the “best possible choice for his successor.”

During his tenure, Mr. Offsay put nearly 300 films into production and more than tripled the network’s original programming slate. He is widely credited for bringing an edgy sensibility to Showtime, greenlighting such projects as Dirty Pictures, 10,000 Black Men Named George and Queer As Folk.

WWE names Livingston CFO: World Wrestling Entertainment has named Philip Livingston its new chief financial officer, a role that has been empty since last October when Augie Liguori left the company. Mr. Livingston, who has been CFO for Catalina Marketing Corp. and Celestial Seasonings and, most recently, was president and CEO of Financial Executives International, also will serve on the WWE board of directors.

Kids version of ‘Trading Spaces’ to air on NBC: Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls, a kids edition of TLC’s Trading Spaces, is heading for Discovery Kids on NBC.

The 13-episode room-makeover series featuring 8- to13-year-olds is set for a May 17 debut. The new show comes from Banyan Productions, the production company responsible for the original Trading Spaces.