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Jun 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Promax Conference Under Way

In the first year away from a convention center, a reorganized Promax & BDA Conference kicked off today with “renewed vigor” as meeting organizers look toward the future.

With attendance expected to approach 2,500 board members confirmed that the annual convention would return to Los Angeles “in some form” next year.

Other plans to broaden the organization’s reach were also discussed.

Although panels such as Kevin Carroll’s “Nike Psyche” drew a standing ovation in a standing-room-only crowd, some insiders pointed toward Thursday NBC and ABC affiliate meetings as the raw meat of the conference when heavyweights such as NBC’s Jeff Zucker and “surprise guests” will visit the hotel.

New Vote Announced for Media Ownership News: The Senate Commerce Committee has announced a vote June 19 on legislation that could undo at least part of the Federal Communications Commission’s recent relaxation of its media ownership rules.

Under the FCC’s action, a single company for the first time would be permitted to own up to three TV stations, a daily newspaper, eight radio stations and the cable TV system in larger markets. Critics allege that the agency has run afoul of the public interest by giving media conglomerates too much new leeway to consolidate.

The bill slated for the committee vote, introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, would set in legislative concrete an agency rule that used to bar broadcasters from owning TV stations reaching more than 35 percent of the nation’s TV homes. FCC Republicans raised the cap to 45 percent in their controversial vote Monday on the ownership regulations.

At hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee today, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said he plans to amend the legislation to overturn other parts of the FCC’s media ownership deregulation. Sen. Dorgan called the FCC’s action “wrong-headed and destructive.”

In addition, Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., made clear that he will seek to derail the FCC’s deregulation moves with a rider on an appropriations bill if other legislative efforts to thwart the FCC fail. “The FCC with this order has turned the people’s public interest commission into an instrument of corporate greed,” Sen. Hollings said, adding that he believes FCC Chairman Michael Powell used “spin and fraud” to try to sell the deregulation.

Said Mr. Powell, at the Senate hearings, “The package of changes, in my opinion, are modest. … We did our job, and we did it well — with professionalism, rigor, and with the public interest at the forefront of our minds.”

The FCC’s decision also came under attack from leading Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who vowed to introduce a special Senate resolution that could overturn the agency’s rulings.

Added Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., “This decision was a case of democratic malpractice. … I am glad to see a bipartisan push in Congress to remedy this mistake, and I look forward to a solution that modernizes our media ownership rules without selling out our democracy.”

Nine-Count Indictment for Stewart: A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down a nine-count indictment against domestic diva Martha Stewart and her stock broker, alleging the pair lied to investigators in connection with her sale of 4,000 ImClone Systems shares.

At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint against Ms. Stewart and Peter Bacanovic, her stock broker, for their roles in covering up what the SEC and federal prosecutors allege was an illegal sale of ImClone shares.

“This criminal case is about lying — lying to the FBI, lying to the SEC and lying [to Justice Department] investigators,” said U.S. Attorney James Comey Wednesday, stressing that Ms. Stewart wasn’t being singled out because of her celebrity. “This is conduct that will not be tolerated by anyone.”

The indictment, among other things, charges that Ms. Stewart and her broker, Peter Bacanovic, conspired starting in January 2002 to obstruct the SEC’s investigation into Ms. Stewart’s stock sale. Ms. Stewart is also accused of securities fraud.

Both were scheduled to appear before a federal judge Wednesday to be arraigned.

The charges stem from prosecutors’ allegations that Ms. Stewart received insider information from former ImClone CEO Samuel Waksal about a cancer drug that was going to be rejected by federal regulators. Mr. Waksal has already pleaded guilty to insider trading and faces sentencing next week.

Specifically, Ms. Stewart is accused of lying to federal investigators during two interviews and of lying to the public and to investors in the company that bears her name, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, by repeatedly releasing fraudulent statements about the stock sale.

Mr. Comey said his office opted not to file insider trading charges against Ms. Stewart, saying such charges are rarely filed in such cases. He added that the SEC through its civil complaint process and the agency’s ability to seek relief and fines, “is the appropriate treatment in this case.”

Mr. Bacanovic, meanwhile, is accused of lying to SEC investigators, lying under oath to the SEC and providing federal investigators with bogus documentation designed to conceal the true circumstances of the Stewart sale. Mr. Comey said investigators were able to scientifically determine that notes made on documents related to Ms. Stewart’s sale that support her claim that the sale was legal were in fact made by a different blue-ink pen, and thus were designed to conceal the Stewart-Bacanovic insider trading scheme.

For its part, the SEC lawsuit seeks to bar Ms. Stewart from acting as a director at her company and seeks to limit her future activities as an officer of the company. Mr. Bacanovic could be barred from working for a broker-dealer. Both face fines for their alleged misdeeds as well.

Ms. Stewart’s lawyer, Robert Morvillo, said the doyenne of domesticity will plead innocent. He also questioned the government’s motivation in making these allegations. “Is it for publicity purposes because Martha Stewart is a celebrity?” Mr. Morvillo asked. “Is it because she is a woman who has successfully competed in a man’s business world by virtue of her talent, hard work and demanding standards?”

‘American Juniors’ Rates High for Fox: “American Idol” spinoff “American Juniors” came through for Fox last night, winning its 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. time slot in adults 18 to 49 (4.8/15) by a 41 percent margin over its closest competitor, NBC’s “Dog Eat Dog,” according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “Juniors” averaged 11.7 million total viewers.

The premiere of Fox’s new drama “Keen Eddie” didn’t fare as well, finishing in third place in its time slot in adults 18 to 49 with a 3.3 rating and 9 share from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. However, that is up 74 percent over the time period’s performance last year on the same night. “Eddie” pulled in 8 million viewers.

The “Miss Universe” pageant turned in strong numbers for NBC, winning its 9 p.m.-to-11 p.m. slot in adults 18 to 49 with 4.3/12 and total viewers with 12 million. “Universe” had its best number in adults 18 to 49 since 1997, when the show also had a 4.3 rating.

Fox’s new shows were enough to give the network a nightly victory in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.1/12, followed by NBC (4.0/12), ABC (3.0/9) and CBS (2.4/7). In total viewers, NBC won the night with 10.9 million, followed by Fox (9.9 million), ABC (7.9 million) and CBS (7.8 million).

Kalouria to Continue with NBC for 3 More Years: Sheraton Kalouria has signed to head NBC’s daytime department for three more years. Mr. Kalouria has been senior VP of daytime at NBC since May 2000. He joined NBC from ABC, where he was VP of marketing and promotion for ABC daytime.