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May 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

CBS Announces Summer Premieres

CBS will premiere two sitcoms in June and two reality series in July. Baby Bob returns to CBS for eight episodes starting Friday, June 6, from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (ET). New sitcom Charlie Lawrence, starring Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf, will debut on Sunday, June 15, from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Neither series made the cut to air during the regular season.

Big Brother 4 returns Tuesday, July 8, at 8 p.m. Big Brother will air every Tuesday (8 p.m. to 9 p.m.), Wednesday (9 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and Friday (8 p.m. to 9 p.m.) throughout the summer. Wednesday editions will air live in the East and will feature the eviction of one of the contestants. New dating reality series Cupid will premiere Wednesday, July 9, at 10 p.m., following Big Brother. Eleven episodes of the series have been slated. The series tries to find a mate for one woman relying on the woman’s friends and the viewing audience to help her choose.

Activist-Group Targets Murdoch: News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch was featured today in newspaper and television advertisements ads sponsored by an activist group that warn about the alleged perils of deregulation for media ownership.

The TV ad, which sponsors are trying to place on Cox Cable Communication’s systems in the Washington area-and perhaps on Fox-show a consumer flipping through TV channels in the future, finding the scowling image of Mr. Murdoch on every one. “The FCC Wants to Help Him,” says the headline of the full-page ad featuring the News Corp. chief’s visage in today’s editions of The New York Times. The text of the newspaper ad says that Mr. Murdoch already owns the Fox TV network, eight cable networks and local TV stations in 34 U.S. cities and wants more. “Unless we act now, Rupert Murdoch is going to get his way,” the ad says.

The ad also says that the deregulation the FCC has in mind will mean higher cable bills, canned programming and reduced coverage of community issues for the public. “Public outrage is the perhaps our only chance to stop or reverse these changes,” the ad continues. In an interview, Eli Pariser, campaigns director for MoveOn-one of the activist groups sponsoring the initiative, said Mr. Murdoch was drafted as the ad’s star because he’s a “poster child” for the ill effects that deregulation could have, at least for MoveOn’s 1.4 million members. “At least among our membership, people are not pleased with the way he approaches news and journalism,” Mr. Pariser said.

Mr. Pariser also said the campaign, which will include print ads in the Washington Post and Daily Variety, is aimed at federal policymakers and lawmakers, with $40,000 for TV buys and $120,000 for newspapers. MoveOn got its start in 1998 in a campaign urging Congress to drop efforts to impeach former President Bill Clinton.

Turell Returns to The WB: Brad Turell is returning to The WB as executive VP, network communications. Mr. Turell left The WB to become executive VP at TBS when WB founder Jamie Kellner was put in charge of all the Turner cable networks. Mr. Turell left that post a few months ago.

Mr. Turell will oversee all aspects of network communications and focus on corporate communications, overall strategy and talent relations. Paul McGuire will remain as senior VP, network communications, and focus on programming, including The WB prime time, Kids WB and the photo department.

Dean Joins in Plea to FCC: Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean today joined the parade of Democrats urging the Federal Communications Commission to pull the plug on its plan to loosen its media ownership rules June 2. In a letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, Mr. Dean said that in his travels around the country, he had found that the proposed deregulation is one of the foremost issues on citizens’ minds.

He also said the FCC’s proposed actions would allow “a few massive conglomerates to gobble up our local news sources,” threatening free speech and free discussion. Before any vote, Mr. Dean said, he believes Mr. Powell should testify before Congress on the agency’s plans and give the public additional time to comment. “This deregulation, like so many actions pushed by the Bush administration, would benefit a few at the expense of the rest of us,” Mr. Dean said.

‘Bernie Mac’ Moves into Syndication: As had been expected, Twentieth Television has moved quickly to clear The Bernie Mac Show into syndication and has nabbed 30 percent of the country for a fall 2005 off-net launch. Leading the charge in the major markets are the key fox-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles. In Chicago the show has been cleared on Weigel’s owned WCIU-TV.

Also involved in deals are Viacom-owned stations in Philadelphia, Dallas and Indianapolis as well as Washington’s Tribune station and Sinclair’s Baltimore outlet. “The Bernie Mac Show has tremendous crossover appeal which has been quickly recognized by the various stations that bid for the show,” said Paul Franklin, executive VP at Twentieth. “Stations are also seeing the value of this show to their access lineups.”

CNN Recruits Miller: CNN has hired James Miller-whose resume runs the gamut from politics, network news, TV and movie development and production, to best-selling books-as senior executive producer of the news channel’s new weeknight two-hour show, American Evening With Paula Zahn. Mr. Miller, who will be based in New York and will begin immediately, has most recently co-authored Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live with TelevisionWeek contributor and Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales, has been consulting with ABC’s Good Morning America for the last few months.

“James Miller’s broad background in communications and his boundless creative energy make him the ideal choice for this important position,” said Teya Ryan, the executive VP and general manager of CNN/U.S.

‘House Arrest’ Greenlighted: Comedy Central, the latest cable network to join the Viacom house, has given the expected green light to House Arrest, a half-hour animated series produced by Apostle, the production company headed by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico.Each episode of the series features several brief animated interstitials from actual stand-up comedians, including Janeane Garofalo, Jay Mohr and Mr. Leary. The 13-episode order is scheduled for an early 2004 debut.

Food and Discovery Name New GMs: There have been changes at the general manager level at two niche cable networks, Scripps’ Food Network and Discovery’s Travel Channel.

At Food, Brooke Bailey Johnson has been named senior VP and general manager. At Travel, Rick Rodriguez, a nine-year Discovery Networks veteran, has been named executive VP and general manager, replacing Steve Cheskin, who resigned the general manager post earlier this month.

Ms. Johnson, formerly the general manager at A&E, will report to Judy Girard, president, Food Network. The appointment comes as the network begins to extend its brand to a series of cookbooks. The first, From the Food Network Kitchens (a working title), is due out in bookstores this fall.

At Travel, Mr. Rodriguez will report to Billy Campbell, president, Discovery Networks, U.S. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Rodriguez was executive VP of content, Discovery Networks International, where he was responsible for overseeing all programming, production, Internet and interactive assets, as well as on-air promotional activities, for the company’s entire suite of international networks. Discovery Networks International consists of 10 brands in 33 different languages transmitted in 155 countries.