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Jul 25, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Former Charter Senior VP Admits Role in Conspiracy

A former Charter Communications senior VP on Friday pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit fraud, a day after he and three other former Charter executives were indicted in connection with the cable operator’s accounting scandal.

David McCall, 48, will be sentenced Oct. 17 for his role in a scheme in which disconnected cable customers were not removed from the books in order to prop up the cable operator’s subscriber numbers. He faces a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison.

“Mr. McCall acknowledged in court today that he participated in a conspiracy to defraud Charter stockholders,” U.S. Attorney Raymond Gruender said in a statement Friday. “We are very pleased to obtain his cooperation as we proceed with this prosecution.”

Mr. McCall, former Chief Operating Officer David Barford, former Chief Financial Officer Kent Kalkwarf and former Senior VP James Smith were indicted on charges the executives improperly boosted subscriber numbers and revenue in a scheme to mask a slowdown in the St. Louis-based cable operator’s business.

Their alleged misdeeds forced Charter to restate several quarters’ worth of earnings.

Diercks Named President/GM of WTVJ-TV: Ardyth R. Diercks has been named president and general manager of NBC-owned WTVJ-TV in Miami. Ms. Diercks has been senior VP of Gannett Television since 1998, serving simultaneously as president and general manager of WUSA-TV in Washington since 2001.

At WTVJ, she succeeds Don Browne, who was named chief operating officer of Telemundo in May.

Reagan Jr. Fills In for Press: Ron Reagan Jr. is filling in for Bill Press the week of July 28 on MSNBC’s weekday show, “Buchanan & Press.” Mr. Reagan, who was on the show in April after he had harsh things to say about President George W. Bush in a Salon.com interview, was booked by veteran producer Tamara Haddad (“Larry King Live,” “Today,” “The Late Late Show With Tom Snyder”).

Ms. Haddad is joining the “Buchanan & Press” producing team, which she will lead from her hometown of Washington.

’60 Minutes’ Producer Dead at 34: The staff of “60 Minutes” is mourning the loss of hard-charging and highly regarded producer Trevor Nelson, who died Thursday night of complications from meningitis. He was 34 and had worked for the magazine for seven years, the last three of those years full-time.

“He was the most talented young producer I ever worked with. He was destined for great things,” said correspondent Steve Kroft. “Trevor Nelson was a guy who had star written all over him,” said “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt. “I thought one day he might be the executive producer of this broadcast.”

Adelphia Elects Bigelow, Wolfe as Directors: Adelphia Communications’ board of directors on Friday elected former Time Warner Cable executive E. Thayer Bigelow and former Hershey Foods Chairman Kenneth Wolfe to join the beleaguered cable operator as directors.

The appointments come as part of Adelphia’s effort to clean up its image and its executive suite after a series of accounting scandals led to indictments of former Chairman John Rigas and members of his family who served as executives of the cable operator. Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Adelphia hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to find a crop of new directors for the company as it recovers from the accounting improprieties.

Mr. Bigelow and Mr. Wolfe will replace directors Leslie Gelber and Pete Metros, who agreed to step down from the board once new directors were named.

Mr. Bigelow is a general partner at Bigelow Media, a media investment and consulting firm. He was previously president and CEO of Time Warner Cable Programming and served as interim president and chief operating officer of Court TV from 1997 to 1998.

Mr. Wolfe served as chairman and CEO of Hershey from 1993 to 2002, when he retired from the company. Before that, Mr. Wolfe was Hershey’s president and COO from 1985 to 1993.

Belo Reports Q2 Drop: Television station and newspaper owner Belo on Friday reported a 3 percent drop in second-quarter net earnings to $39.3 million, or 34 cents a share, from a year-earlier profit of $40.5 million, or 36 cents a share, hurt by the decline in political advertising compared with a year earlier. Revenue rose nearly 1 percent to $369.5 million.Dallas-based Belo, which owns 19 TV stations and four daily newspapers, reported TV station revenue was largely flat at $171.9 million, due to the sputtering economy and the lack of political advertising.

“As we look to the third quarter, it remains difficult to predict revenues for the Television Group much beyond the current month,” said Chief Financial Officer Dunia Shive.

The company said July spot revenues are shaping up to rise around 1 percent, and August spot revenues are poised to rise slightly as well.