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Sep 25, 2003  •  Post A Comment

California Recall Debate Canceled

One day after a raucous debate in Sacramento, Calif., among five of the candidates for governor of California in the recall election, CNN and the Los Angeles Times announced cancellation of another debate scheduled for Sept. 30 in Los Angeles.

The debate, which was due to be televised by CNN, was only for candidates who had at least 10 percent support in Los Angeles Times or Field polls, and the incumbent. That meant the four invitees were Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Sen. Tom McClintock, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Gray Davis.

According to a press release, Lt. Gov. Bustamante and Sen. McClintock accepted, but Mr. Schwarzenegger and Gov. Davis declined to participate. “In light of the fact that we believe that California voters are best served by presenting the views of Gov. Davis and the top candidates,” the statement said, “We have canceled the debate.”

The release concluded by saying: “The Los Angeles Times and CNN will continue to aggressively cover the recall election.”

ABC Announced Labor Agreement with NABET: ABC announced Thursday that a new nationwide labor agreement with NABET-CWA has been ratified by nine out of 10 bargaining units that represent more than 4,000 technicians, newswriters, radio talent coordinators and traffic coordinators and other job classifications in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The unit that represents Los Angeles plant maintenance workers, 24 of who voted, rejected the agreement 13 to 11. The new agreement takes effect immediately and expires March 31, 2007. The previous contracts had expired May 12.

Nielsen Chides Station for Use of Hurricane Ratings: Nielsen Media Research said Thursday it is ordering WJLA-TV in Washington to “cease and desist” touting its coverage of Hurricane Isabel’s assault as the most-watched in the Washington area, where massive power outages rendered any data collected by Nielsen at the peak of the storm coverage too “unstable” for publication or promotion.

The Albritton-owned ABC affiliate had asked this week for “any data we might have,” said Nielsen communications VP Jack Loftus. He said Nielsen shipped the station some data and made clear to WJLA that it was “not representative of anything” and could be used only for internal station analysis.

However, the station has been running on-air promos extolling its hurricane coverage and on Wednesday The Washington Times ran a story reporting the “big ratings” scored Sept. 18 by WJLA, which recently hired away Leon Harris from CNN.

Mr. Loftus said it is still unclear who gave The Times its data, which the newspaper attributed to Nielsen. But he added, “Whoever did that released bogus information into the market that was designed to mislead the market.

Nielsen made clear to WJLA that “the sample was way out of line, so it is not projectable, Mr. Loftus said.

“We need to find out how the data got out the door.”

WJLA President and General Manager Chris Pike said he had shared the information internally only in an e-mail and in a meeting in the newsroom.

“It was done for staff morale,” said Mr. Pike. “In retrospect, I guess it’s probably not surprising that someone shared it.” The station executive said that one of the station’s post-hurricane promos included the Washington Times headline (“WJLA’s Isabel coverage wins big”) and excerpted one laudatory sentence from the story. The series of promos had included “no numbers, no mention of Nielsen,” he said.

Mr. Loftus, however, said numbers are required in order to claim “most watched.”

In addition to notifying WJLA that it must stop making public use of incomplete Nielsen data, Nielsen also issued a media advisory making clear the dates and markets for which it was and still is unable to provide reliable ratings information.

In the Washington area, the period from Sept. 18 through Sept. 22 was listed as “excluded dates.” In Raleigh-Durham, N.C., data for Sept. 18 to 20 is excluded. In Baltimore, Sept. 18 to 21 is excluded. In Norfolk and Richmond, Va., the Nielsen sample still is not back to normal.

“The media and advertising community must understand that any data released from these specific markets for these excluded dates does not meet Nielsen reportability standards. These unstable data, therefore, should not be used for buying, selling and promotional purposes,” the Nielsen advisory said.

Bomb Explodes in NBC News Baghdad Bureau: A bomb exploded early Thursday morning in a building housing a generator outside the al-Aike Hotel, where NBC News’ Baghdad bureau is located and where the network’s personnel stay when in the Iraqi capital.

Approximately a dozen NBC News staffers were reported to be in the hotel at the time of the explosion, which killed a hotel employee and left Canadian soundman David Moodie slightly injured by flying glass.

It was not immediately clear whether NBC News, which had posted no signs outside the hotel, was the target.

Mr. Moodie told MSNBC a chest of drawers in his room fell on him. “I sleep in the room immediately above the generator, so I guess I was lucky,” he said.

He said no other NBC employees were hurt.

“We are grateful that all of our NBC News employees are safe and are saddened by the loss of life at the hotel,” said a statement from NBC News. “We remain dedicated to covering the story while doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of our employees in Iraq and around the world.”

When they went back into Baghdad in April, after the city was taken by U.S. troops, some news organizations said the occasional change of hotel would be part of their security plan.

After some two months in the al-Aike Hotel, which some familiar with Baghdad thought of as a “soft target,” NBC News was “in the process of making a move,” said an NBC News spokeswoman, who added: “We will not be disclosing the [new] location.”

Other news organizations prefer to hunker down in one location and strengthen security there by working to get, for example, barriers erected to limit direct access to areas around the buildings.

ABC Edges Out NBC in Demo: Strong performances from an hour-long “My Wife and Kids” and two-hour “The Bachelor” pushed ABC past NBC’s resurgent “West Wing” and stalwart “Law & Order” to win Wednesday night in adults 18 to 49. NBC, however, won the night in total viewers.

The most competitive hour for young adult viewers was 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., which pitted the first hour of ABC’s “The Bachelor” against the finale of CBS’s “Big Brother” and the season premiere of NBC’s now Aaron Sorkin-less “West Wing.” “West Wing” won that battle with a 6.1 rating/15 share, about 15 percent ahead of second place “Bachelor” (5.3/14), according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. “West Wing” was down 9 percent from last year’s two-hour season premiere, but it was up 30 percent from the show’s season finale in May and 36 percent above its 4.5 season average last year.

While “Big Brother” finished third in the time slot, it still had a strong performance with a 4.1/11 and 10.8 million total viewers. In the finale, Jun Song was crowned the winner after spending 82 days in the “Big Brother” house.

CBS’s new David E. Kelley drama “Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” didn’t fare nearly as well, pulling a third-place 2.6/7 in adults 18 to 49 and 8.3 million viewers from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. NBC’s season premiere of “Law & Order” won the time slot in adults 18 to 49 (7.5/20) and total viewers (20.5 million). The second hour of “The Bachelor” was second in both measures (6.5/17 in adults 18 to 49 and 11.2 million total viewers).

“The Bachelor” had its highest opening night adults 18 to 49 rating (5.9/15) and total viewer numbers (12.4 million) in four editions. (“The Bachelorette,” though, did open to bigger numbers last year.)

From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., “My Wife and Kids” dominated the hour with a 5.8/17 in adults 18 to 49 and 13.7 million viewers. NBC’s “Ed,” returning to its old time slot after a move to Fridays at the end of last season, finished second with a 3.9/11 and 10.7 million viewers. The WB’s special “Hilary Duff’s Birthday” at 8 p.
m. barely registered with a dismal last-place 0.7/2 in adults 18 to 49 and a mere 2.4 million viewers.

The third week of UPN’s new drama “Jake 2.0” saw its ratings drop again to 0.8/2 and 2.7 million viewers (from a 1.0 rating in adults 18 to 49 and 2.9 million viewers last week). But those numbers were good enough to beat a repeat of the premiere of “One Tree Hill” on The WB, which managed 0.8/2 and 2.1 million viewers.

For the night, ABC won adults 18 to 49 (5.9/16), followed by NBC (5.8/16), CBS (3.0/8), Fox (2.9/8), UPN (1.2/3) and The WB (0.8/2). In total viewers, NBC took the night with 16.4 million, followed by ABC (12.8 million), CBS (9.8 million), Fox (6.7 million), UPN (2.8 million) and The WB (2.1 million).

Cora Joins CBS as Director of Research: John Cora has joined CBS Television as director of research. Previously, he was senior manager of programming research at ABC Cable Networks Group. In his new position, Mr. Cora will be responsible for analyzing primary research for CBS’s prime-time programs and promotional campaigns, as well as monitoring the network’s performance in the Nielsen ratings. He will report to Eric Steinberg, senior VP of West Coast research.