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Sep 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Court Stays FCC Ownership Rules

In a major blow to the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia late Wednesday stayed the agency’s new media ownership rules pending court resolution of court challenges.

Without court intervention, the new regulations would have gone into effect Thursday, clearing the way for what critics feared would have been an irreversible wave of new media mergers and industry consolidation.

In oral arguments before the court Wednesday morning, attorneys for the networks and the FCC urged the court to reject the stay on grounds that agency critics had not presented a case warranting a court order. But in its decision Wednesday evening, a three-judge panel of the court disagreed. “Given the magnitude of this matter and the public’s interest in reaching the proper resolution, a stay is warranted pending a thorough and efficient judicial review,” the judges said.

In the wake of the court’s decision, FCC Chairman Michael Powell could not be reached for comment. But in a statement, Andrew Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project-the activist group that filed for the stay-said the court’s action would give agency critics an opportunity to convince Congress and, if necessary, the courts that the FCC’s decision is bad for democracy and bad for broadcast localism.

“Perhaps it will emobolden Congress to overturn the rules in their entirety,” Mr. Schwartzman added. “That would save everyone a lot of time and effort fighting it out in the courts to obtain the same result.”

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., another leading critic of the FCC’s rules, said: “It stops the process dead in its tracks for now. I think the court must have understood what we know-the FCC embarked on these dramatic rule changes without the benefit of national hearings and thoughtful analysis.”

NBC All-Star Charity Auction to Launch Sept. 17: The third annual NBC All-Star Charity Auction this year will benefit The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health. It will kick off live on the “Today” show Sept. 17 and run through Sept. 26 at www.shopnbc.com.

The auction will feature walk-on roles in shows including “Will & Grace,” “Scrubs,” “American Dreams” and “ER,” as well as studio audience tickets, VIP tours and show-related souvenirs.

The Children’s Inn is a private, nonprofit, family-centered residence for seriously ill pediatric outpatients and their families at the National Institutes of Health who have come from throughout the country and around the world. Ninety percent of The Inn’s funds are privately raised. A new wing is being built that will almost double The Inn’s size, making it possible to accommodate 59 families at one time.

Comedy Central, ‘South Park’ Creators Reach Syndication Agreement: Comedy Central said today that it and “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have reached an agreement with Mort Marcus’ Debmar Studios for the broadcast syndication rights to the series starting in the fall of 2004.

As part of the deal, Comedy Central will make available more than 100 episodes of what has been the cable channel’s highest-rated series since its premiere in 1997. The syndicated episodes will be edited by Comedy Central for content to ensure they’re picked up by TV stations.

“‘South Park,’ which remains our top-rated show six years after its launch, is a huge part of Comedy Central’s past, current and future success and will be the same for the stations that syndicate it,” said Comedy Central President and CEO Larry Divney.

VH1 Announces New Hires: VH1 on Wednesday announced several programming promotions and hires designed to build upon the network’s recent success of summer hits such as “I Love the ’70s” and “200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons.”

According to the network, Michael Hirschorn was promoted to executive VP of production and programming, and Shelly Tatro was promoted to senior VP of production and programming. Matt Hanna, who had been director of music news at VH1 since 2000, was promoted to director of development.

The cable network also hired Jim Ackerman as VP of development production and programming and Jeff Olde as an executive consultant. Mr. Ackerman was most recently a supervising producer for “The Caroline Rhea Show,” while Mr. Olde served as an executive producer on MTV’s “BioRhythm” and Lifetime’s “Intimate Portrait.”

Petersen, Helgenberger to Present at Emmys: “CSI’s” William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger will be among the presenters at the “55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards,” to be aired live Sunday, Sept. 21, on Fox from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. “CSI” has been nominated for an Emmy; Ms. Helgenberger has been nominated for an Emmy for her role as crime scene analyst Catherine Willows. Don Mischer is executive producer of the Emmys show.

ABC News Live to Run First Scheduled Show: The 24-hour broadband news channel ABC News Live planned to introduce its first regularly scheduled show today when it premiered “Politics Live” at 12:30 p.m. (ET). The daily live Web program is anchored by Alina Cho and features interviews with ABC News White House and congressional correspondents, political journalists from around the country and newsmakers.

The program will run 15 to 30 minutes but can be stretched to 45 minutes when the show has particularly compelling guests, said Bernard Gershon, senior VP and general manager of ABCNews.com. The California recall will likely be the biggest story on the show during the next month, he said.

The online news service is currently available to about 1 million Real Superpass subscribers. Mr. Gershon hopes to grow the subscriber base for ABC News Live during the next year and to start selling ads by the end of this year. “We have created a model on the Internet where we are creating content for a broadband audience,” he said. Peak usage for the broadband site is between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. (ET) and the average usage time is 31 minutes, he said.

SAG Nominations Begin: The window for submitting nominations for the 10th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards for performances in prime-time TV and movies opened today and continues until 5 p.m. (PT) Wednesday, Nov. 19. Submissions can be made online at www.sagawards.org or on forms that can be obtained by calling the Screen Actors Guild Awards office at 323-549-6707.

Nominations will be announced Thursday, Jan. 15, 2004. The Screen Actors Guild Awards will be announced at ceremonies Sunday, Feb. 22, telecast by TNT from the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center at 8 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. Central and 6 p.m. Mountain.

TV Academy Honors Lifetime Television’s With Governors Award: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Board of Governors has voted to present its prestigious Governors Award to Lifetime Television for the network’s “Our Lifetime Commitment: Stop Violence Against Women” initiative, it was announced by ATAS Chairman Bryce Zabel. The award will be presented at the 2003 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony Sept. 13 in Los Angeles.

“Lifetime has consistently exerted leadership in the television industry through its ongoing commitment to making the lives of women better,” Mr. Zabel said in a statement. “Not only have they made some excellent television as a result, but this Governors Award also honors the fact that in our community they are seen by their peers as excellent citizens.”

Lifetime Television’s “Our Lifetime Commitment: Stop Violence Against Women” campaign is dedicated to using the power of the media to raise awareness of the problems of domestic abuse and sexual assault and to change laws and lives for the better, according to ATAS. In the initiative, Lifetime partners with leading nonprofit organizations, corporations and government officials to create extensive original on-air programming, online content and community outreach that offers lifesaving information and support, promotes passage of progressive national legislation and encourages women and men to work together to stop the violence. The campaign is part of the network’s unparalleled efforts to advocate on behalf of women and families on a range of critica
l issues, including breast cancer awareness, quality child care and self-esteem among women and girls.

Past recipients of the Governors Award include Walter Cronkite, Johnny Carson, “Masterpiece Theatre,” Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, CNN, Showtime’s diversity programming, PBS, Alistair Cooke and MTV’s “Fight for Your Rights: Take a Stand Against Violence.” Last year the award went to ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC for the 9/11 special “Supporting America: A Tribute to Heroes.”