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Jul 9, 2003  •  Post A Comment

McCarley Promoted to NBC Olympics Marketing Director

Mike McCarley has been promoted to director of marketing and communications for NBC Olympics. In his expanded position Mr. McCarley, who has been NBC Olympics director of communications for more than three years, will work closely with Gary Zenkel, executive VP of NBC Olympics, and Brett Goodman, VP of marketing and business affairs for NBC Olympics.

He will continue to report to Kevin Sullivan, VP of communications for NBC Sports, and will continue to be the network’s chief communications contact for Olympics and NASCAR.

Ex-WBBM Executive Accused of Embezzlement: A former WBBM-TV accounting executive and her husband, who have been accused in the embezzlement of $1.8 million from the CBS-owned Chicago station, remained in jail Wednesday afternoon after a Cook County court session in which a judge let stand their $500,000 cash bonds.

Deborah Fogarty, who worked for WBBM for 14 years, and her husband, Timothy, described as a public works employee, were arrested Tuesday and charged with felony theft and money laundering, criminal charges that could mean as much as 15 years in prison, if convicted.

They remain in custody because the criminal charges were quickly followed by a civil suit, filed by CBS Broadcasting Inc., that resulted in their assets being frozen.

Thomas Leinenweber, the lawyer representing Ms. Fogarty, said the Fogartys have never been in trouble with the law and they maintain their innocence. Mr. Leinenweber said the couple is expected to be arraigned Friday but he doesn’t expect the issue of a lower bond to be argued until next week. Ms. Fogarty was fired for what was described as “unrelated behavior” in March. An audit after she left turned up irregularities that led CBS to contact authorities in April. The civil suit alleges that Ms. Fogarty, whose duties included handling WBBM employees’ American Express travel-related expense invoices, authorized checks written to two personal American Express accounts for amounts in excess of the invoices.

The civil suit alleges the diverted money was spent on everything from jewelry ($501,320) and travel ($257,387) to limo rides ($16,000). A statement issued by WBBM said: “WBBM-TV uncovered a defalcation allegedly by a former employee and immediately turned the matter over to local law enforcement authorities. Criminal charges and a civil complaint have since been filed. The amount of the defalcation is not material to the financial condition of the station.”

Carlson Eats His Own Words: Conservative “Crossfire” co-host Tucker Carlson, who had pledged to eat his shoes and tie if New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s best-selling book, “Living History,” sold 1 million copies, had to eat his words and a chocolate shoe-shaped cake delivered to him by the former first lady herself during the CNN show Wednesday. “This is a wingtip. A right-wing tip,” said Ms. Clinton, who also handed Mr. Carlson a copy of her book inscribed: “Tucker-You’re No. 1 (million) in my book.”

“I have to say, I didn’t predict [the popularity of her book],” said Mr. Carlson, caught by the surprise cooked up by co-host Paul Begala and Ms. Clinton.

“Well, there’s a lot you’ve been wrong about,” Ms. Clinton said with a smile.

‘Big Brother’ Premiere Spotlights CBS: The premiere of “Big Brother 4” infused life into CBS’s Tuesday night lineup last night. “Brother” won its time slot in adults 18 to 49 (3.8/13) and total viewers (10 million), according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. It premiered with 470,000 more viewers than “Big Brother 3” did last summer and beat NBC’s “Dog Eat Dog” and Fox’s “American Juniors.”

CBS sunk to fourth place at 9 p.m. with a repeat of “The Guardian” (1.4/4) and third place at 10 p.m. with a repeat of “Judging Amy” (1.7/5). NBC came on strong the rest of the night to win the 9 p.m. hour with “Last Comic Standing” (3.8/11) and the 10 p.m. hour with “Dateline” (4.0/12).

For the night, NBC won in adults 18 to 49 with 3.7/11, followed by ABC (2.4/7), CBS (2.3/7) and Fox (2.3/7). NBC won the night in total viewers with 8.2 million, followed by CBS (7.4 million), ABC (6.4 million) and Fox (5.6 million).

Universal Television Hires Roth, Promotes Lancaster: Universal Television has upped Laura Lancaster and hired Elisa Roth to run its drama programming department. Both will be VPs of drama programming and report to David Kissinger, president of Universal Television Productions. Ms. Lancaster was director of drama programming at Universal.

Ms. Roth comes over from David E. Kelley Productions, where she was director of creative affairs. They will oversee all drama development as well as the new ABC drama “Karen Sisco,” midseason CBS drama “Century City,” NBC’s “American Dreams” and CBS’s “The District.” Ms. Lancaster and Ms. Roth replace Carl Beverly, who left the studio to work for Sarah Timberman’s new production company based at Warner Bros.

NAB About-Face on FCC Ownership Rules: In a jarring about-face, the National Association of Broadcasters has decided to oppose all pending legislation that would roll back the Federal Communications Commission’s recently enacted rules changes that relaxed media ownership limits.

The NAB has also reached out to the major networks to join with it in its new position, apparently seeking to head off the formation of a competing trade group that would represent network interests.

Until Tuesday, under orders from its affiliate-dominated board of directors, the NAB had been lobbying vigorously to win legislation that would roll back the FCC’s decision to relax the cap on national TV ownership. The cap was lifted to let broadcasters acquire stations reaching 45 percent of the nation’s TV homes after the three Republican FCC commissioners voted for the change. The two Democratic FCC commissioners voted against the change.

The NAB’s marching orders have long been to keep the cap at 35 percent — a level the association has maintained for years is vital to checking the power of networks over their affiliates. But industry and congressional sources said NAB officials have decided to give up the cap fight because they fear they won’t be able to win legislation that would focus on the cap alone — and that any measure approved by an increasingly heated Congress would be likely to be loaded down with provisions reversing FCC deregulation that key NAB members support. Those include the relaxation of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership restrictions.

The sudden change brought an angry rebuke from Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the ranking member on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “The NAB’s decision to reverse itself on the issue of the national television ownership cap is an unfortunate retreat from its proud history of support for localism, diversity and competition in the broadcast marketplace. My efforts, and those of my colleagues, to repeal the FCC’s ill-advised decision to raise the ownership cap to 45 percent will not be deterred. And I remain confident that many of NAB’s own members will continue to support us.”

Sources said NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts has also asked representatives of the Big 4 TV networks to join NAB in its fight against any legislation. All of the networks bailed out of the association over the past several years in a dispute over the cap issue. One source said NAB’s change of direction on the cap issue could also take wind out of the sails of the Local Broadcasting Alliance, a new organization that the networks have been planning to launch to represent the interests of their owned-and-operated TV stations in Washington.

A major test of the newfound industry unity could take place next Wednesday when the House Appropriations Committee is slated to consider an FCC appropriations bill. Sources expect the committee to consider a rider that could roll back much of the deregulation the FCC voted to adopt on June 2.

An NAB spokesman declined comment on the association’s new legislative strategy. But the NAB’s Mr. Fritts has scheduled a briefing with reporters Thursday at which he is expected to announce the association’s new plan.

Williams Leaves NBC for NFL: Kimberly Williams has left NBC, where she was the network’s West Coast chief financial officer, to join the NFL’s media team.

Ms. Williams has been named senior VP of finance for the NFL’s Media Division, which includes NFL Network, the new NFL television programming service launching this fall.

In her new role, Ms. Williams will be responsible for all financial facets of NFL Network operations and the entire NFL Media division, including NFL Films, the NFL broadcasting department and the NFL Internet network. She will relocate from Los Angeles to New York for the position and will report to Steve Bornstein, president and CEO of NFL Network.

Before making the jump to the NFL, Ms. Williams served as senior VP and CFO for NBC West Coast, where she reported to NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker. In that role, she was responsible for all financial aspects of NBC West Coast operations, including NBC’s Entertainment, Studios and Enterprises divisions.

NFL Network currently has a carriage agreement with DirecTV’s basic service, seen in 11.4 million homes.

Court Blocks Vivendi Payment to Messier: Deposed Vivendi Universal CEO Jean-Marie Messier was dealt a setback Wednesday after a Paris court froze the 20.6 million-euro ($23.3 million) severance payment that a New York arbitration panel ordered his former employer to pay him. The court said shareholders of the troubled French company should decide whether Mr. Messier is entitled to the payment.

The ruling came after the French stock market regular Commission des Operations de Bourse (COB) asked the court to block the payment in light of the COB’s determination that proper procedures authorizing a payment to Mr. Messier were not followed.

Vivendi said it was pleased with the ruling, adding that it continues to explore legal avenues to ensure that it doesn’t have to pay Mr. Messier.

“This decision has encouraged the company to continue to take all appropriate legal actions to oppose a payment that it considers illegitimate,” the company said in a statement. “Vivendi Universal today presented the U.S. judge with its appeal against the enforcement of the award of the arbitration tribunal. Vivendi Universal is also considering other actions in the coming days.”

The court’s move is the latest twist in a battle between Paris-based Vivendi Universal and its former CEO over the severance package Mr. Messier says is due to him as part of an termination agreement he claims he signed in July 2002.

Vivendi Universal, which had been taken to the brink of bankruptcy after a frenetic series of acquisitions under Mr. Messier, challenged Mr. Messier’s termination agreement, saying it did not receive board approval. Both the company and Mr. Messier have been named in several lawsuits in the United States and France filed by irate shareholders whose investments vanished as the company stumbled.

The imbroglio ended up before a New York arbitration panel, which late last month ordered Vivendi Universal to pay the severance to Mr. Messier. At the time, Vivendi Universal said it would challenge the arbitration panel’s ruling through legal channels.

Cablevision Rating Under Standard and Poor’s Review: Rating agency Standard & Poor’s said it has placed the debt ratings of Cablevision Systems under review for a possible downgrade, citing as the reason the company’s revelation that it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for an improper accounting scandal that resulted in the company’s firing 14 employees.

The review affects $6.4 billion in debt, and if Cablevision is downgraded, the Bethpage, N.Y.-based multiple system operator could have to pay higher costs to borrow funds.

Cablevision revealed last month that it had uncovered $6.2 million in marketing expenses that had been booked improperly to 2003 instead of properly to 2002 and that it suspected similar amounts were improperly booked in two previous years. The company fired 14 executives, including long-time American Movies Classics President Kate McEnroe.

“While the magnitude of the discrepancies reported by Cablevision does not appear to be material, Standard & Poor’s cannot currently quantify the potential impact of the formal SEC investigation at this time,” said analyst Catherine Consentino in a statement. She added that she couldn’t tell if the review might extend beyond what Cablevision already disclosed.

A Cablevision spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.