News Briefs

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Fox, NBC, Telemundo and CBS/Viacom hired a Washington economics firm to critique a recent report that claimed to show that larger ownership tends to mean stations produce lower-quality local news.
The critique, filed Thursday with the Federal Communications Commission, brands the report issued in February by the Project for Excellence in Journalism “fatally flawed, with conclusions based on statistically meaningless data, subjective grading and contradictory findings that make it wholly unreliable and useless as a basis for policy making.”

The critique was done by Economists Incorporated, which noted that PEJ, which issued its ownership-quality report on the eve of an FCC hearing on deregulatory issues, had not made supporting data available in February “and does not intend to do so within the time frame of the FCC’s current rule-making proceeding.”
“Statistical tests, run on the limited data provided, find that none of the principal findings is statistically significant,” said the Economists critique of the PEJ report.
Tom Rosenstiel, PEJ director, said, “This is a rebuttal from a group of consultants hired by the networks to help them lobby for deregulation, and they were hired to discredit our study, not to do an independent analysis.”
But a number of TV news professionals who had been involved in 1997 in drawing up the original criteria to be examined by PEJ’s annual local TV report card previously quarreled with the ownership report, indicating they did not know it was being compiled and they did not have confidence in it.
Stern Sues Over `Are You Hot?’
Radio personality Howard Stern sued ABC and the producers of Are You Hot? last week claiming the show is based on his ideas that aired on his radio program.
The lawsuit, which seeks $100 million in damages, accuses the network of copying a radio segment in which members of Mr. Stern’s crew and guests evaluate the bodies of contestants in the studio. It also says Are You Hot? spoiled the negotiations Mr. Stern was conducting for his own TV deal, which collapsed when ABC aired Are You Hot?
Are You Hot? features contestants posing in front of a three-judge panel that rates them solely on looks. It is produced by Scott Einziger, a former executive producer of Mr. Stern’s E! cable show. Mr. Stern’s former sidekick Jackie Martling is listed as a consultant for the show.
NCTA Aims to Beef Up its GOP Credentials
Hoping to dampen a perception that it’s too Democratic for the industry’s good, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association is hunting for a high-profile Republican to be its chief lobbyist, according to a well-placed source.
The winning candidate will succeed Pam Turner, NCTA’s longtime senior VP for government relations, who is leaving the association to take a position with the Department of Homeland Security. Ms. Turner has held her position at the NCTA since 1989. From 1982-88, she was deputy assistant to the president for legislative affairs at the White House.
At deadline, Ms. Turner, the association’s top lobbyist with GOP roots, had not returned telephone calls. But one well-placed source-over the denial of an NCTA spokesman-said Ms. Turner is being nudged out, walking the same gangplank that other top NCTA officials with GOP connections have negotiated since Robert Sachs, a Democrat, took over as the association’s chief executive in August 1999.
Among the top NCTA executives who have departed during Mr. Sachs’ tenure: Peggy Binzel, a former GOP congressional aide who served as the association’s No. 2 official, and David Beckwith, an adviser to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign who served as the association’s top spokesman.
Rob Stoddard, an NCTA spokesman, said Ms. Turner was leaving the association voluntarily. He denied the existence of a political litmus test for the position. He also said NCTA has hired consultants with GOP roots, including Mark Buse, a former aide to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “Telecommunications issues, by and large, are addressed in a nonpartisan fashion both on the Hill and at the FCC, so it’s frequently hard to identify a Democratic or Republican point of view,” he added.