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Nov 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Conservative Commentator Tucker Carlson Joins PBS

Taking an apparent turn to the right, PBS has announced development of a new public affairs program to be hosted by Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative author and commentator who is also a featured panelist on CNN’s “Crossfire.”

The untitled show, targeted for a June 2004 launch, will be produced with PBS affiliate WETA-TV in Washington. It is scheduled as a half-hour weekly series to air in prime time. According to a PBS press release, it will be “a lively discussion of the week’s news stories from a wide range of perspectives.”

The show is expected to feature both regular and guest commentators. “I’m thrilled and honored to be part of PBS,” Mr. Carlson said in a statement. “I think this will be the kind of show that will make viewers want to put down the remote for half an hour. I can’t wait.”

In recent years, PBS has been a frequent target of conservative groups, which have been highly critical of the direction and political orientation of public television’s programming. PBS has offered programs with a conservative bent before, including “Firing Line” (1966-1999), hosted by William F. Buckley; and, “The McLaughlin Group,” which is available to PBS stations, although it is not distributed by PBS.

PBS has been under heavy fire from the Bush administration and conservative groups recently for its airing of “Now With Bill Moyers,” a weekly hour-long magazine show.

In addition to his work on “Crossfire,” Carlson has written for newspapers and magazines, including Esquire and The New York Times. He is a former writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock.

TV Ownership Debates Begin Nov. 10: The Senate is slated to begin floor debate Nov. 10 on an appropriations bill that includes a rider that would roll back the cap on national TV ownership from 45 percent to 35 percent of the nation’s TV households. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to approve the legislation in September. The House of Representatives voted 400-21 to approve a similar measure in July.

Cable Rates Hearings Begin Nov. 13: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has announced Senate Commerce Committee hearings to begin Nov. 13 to review a recent report by the General Accounting Office that blamed skyrocketing cable rates on escalating programming costs and infrastructure investment.

CBS Records Milestone by Matching NBC in Adults Demo: For the first time since the advent of the people meter, CBS finished first in adults 18 to 49 on a Thursday night during a November sweeps. CBS tied with NBC. Both networks scored an 8.2 Nielsen Media Research rating and 21 share in the advertiser-coveted demographic that NBC has long dominated. CBS won the total viewer race with 23.2 million viewers to NBC’s 17.5 million. This is the second time in three weeks that CBS has won adults 18 to 49 on Thursday night.

“Survivor” had its best performance in adults 18 to 49 (8.6/22) and total viewers (22.3 million) since its premiere episode. “CSI” dominated the 9 p.m. hour with a 10.5/26 in adults 18 to 49 — 62 percent ahead of second-place NBC’s sitcom combo of “Will & Grace” and “Scrubs.” At 10 p.m., a first-run “Without a Trace” on CBS came the closest it has ever been to a first-run episode of NBC’s “ER.” “Trace” scored a 6.0/19 in adults 18 to 49 to “ER’s” 9.1/24. In total viewers, “Trace” pulled in 18.5 million to “ER’s” 20 million.

John Ratzenberger to Host Travel Show: Former “Cheers” funnyman John Ratzenberger will host a new show on the Travel Channel called “Made in America.” Mr. Ratzenberger will travel across the country visiting manufacturers of American-made products.

“These are the people who really built America, who get up every morning and work their hearts out every day,” Mr. Ratzenberger said. “They get their hands dirty and they are great at what they do. They take pride in their workmanship, and there’s nothing like it.”

Twenty episodes of “Made in America” have been ordered. The show premieres Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 9 p.m.

USA’s ‘Peacemakers’ to Rest in Peace: USA Network has decided not to renew its original series “Peacemakers,” starring Tom Berenger. The Western’s 90-minute premiere on July 30 was the quickest draw on basic cable that week, earning a 4.0 rating in USA homes (5.2 million viewers). However, a relatively small portion of that audience came from the key 18 to 49 group (1.4 million viewers), and the show’s ratings ultimately petered off while continuing to draw the bulk of its audience from older demos.

Johnson Group Sets Slate: The Johnson Group, one of the industry’s fastest-growing independent production companies, has a slew of projects in development, including a special that examines Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s fight against HIV. The program is being produced in partnership with Magic Johnson Entertainment and is targeted for completion before World AIDS Day 2004.

In addition, the group is developing “Competition: Explorer,” a competition series produced in association with The Explorers Club. The program will feature ordinary people who yearn for the opportunity to become America’s next generation of explorers. Also in the works is “Serendipity,” a dating program that explores the nature of love at first sight by working with newspaper personals provider People2People.

The company has completed principal photography on “HALO,” a documentary series for The Discovery Channel that takes an in-depth look at an elite unit of soldiers training to become “high altitude, low opening” jumper jumpers. HALO is scheduled to premiere in February, as is “Crossover,” a documentary series for Showtime Network.

Simpson Signs Comedy Deal With ABC: ABC has signed a comedy development deal with singer Jessica Simpson. Ms. Simpson has gained much notoriety from the reality series “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica” on MTV, which stars Ms. Simpson and her husband, Nick Lachey. Ted Harbert and Ms. Simpson’s manager, Joe Simpson, are attached to the project as executive producers.

“Jessica has infectious energy and unmistakable star quality,” said ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne. “She also has a built-in fan base in both music and television, which is a great jumping-off point for us. We’re looking forward to developing the ideal showcase for her considerable talents.”

Fox Investigates Salary Memo Leak: Executives at the Fox Cable Networks Group threatened criminal charges against staffers who disseminated an e-mail sent Monday that listed the take-home pay of everyone in the division, from Fox Sports topper David Hill on down.

It was unclear who sent the original e-mail, but it caused a serious uproar at Fox when it landed in the inboxes of staffers at the unit, which includes F/X, Fox Sports Net and National Geographic Channel. Monday night, Tony Vinciquerra, president and CEO of the Fox Networks Group, sent an e-mail to the staff apologizing for the distraction the e-mail caused and asking that everyone delete it and not discuss it with anyone outside of the company.

After word of the e-mail leaked, Dan Fawcett, general counsel for the unit, sent a darker message to staffers saying the company was aware that some staffers had already forwarded the e-mail. “You will be reprimanded and possibly terminated,” the note said. Mr. Fawcett also warned that violators would be “turned over to law enforcement officials.”

A Fox Cable Network Group spokesperson said, “We cannot comment on criminal matters.”

A former Fox executive noted that the revelation of staff salaries was likely to cause dissension in the ranks and predicted it would lead to a parade of executives looking to renegotiate their contracts.

“If a senior vice president at one network finds out his counterpart at another network is making $30,000 more than he is, he’s going to march into his boss’s office to make up the difference. It will be a huge pain,” the former executive said.

Duff Signs Talent Deal With CBS: Tween star Hilary Duff has signed a talent holding deal with CBS. The network plans to develop a sitcom around her for the 2004-05 season. Ms. Duff was the star of Disney Channel’s
“Lizzie McGuire” series and the Disney-produced feature film “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” Her TV future was up in the air after a very public dispute over her compensation for a proposed sequel to the movie.

NBC Promotes Publicity Executives: NBC has upped three executives in its publicity department. Deborah Thomas was named VP, media relations, entertainment publicity, from director, media relations. She will oversee publicity for prime-time specials and daytime programs. She reports to Rebecca Marks, senior VP, NBC Entertainment Publicity.

Jamie French was promoted to senior press manager, from press manager. He oversees PR for “Will & Grace,” “Good Morning Miami” and launched “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Boy Meets Boy.” He will continue to handle those series and report to Kathy Kelly-Brown, VP of prime-time series and longform publicity.

Grace Niu was hired as senior press manager, from senior manager of publicity and promotions at Fine Line Features. She will work on publicity for “American Dreams” and midseason sitcom “Come to Papa.” She will report to Ms. Kelly-Brown.

‘Partridge’ Lands at VH1: Sony Pictures Television will produce a new version of the 1970s classic “The Partridge Family” for VH1, as well as a reality series documenting the casting of the show. Both series will air in 2004 and will be executive produced by Ken Mok (“Making the Band”).

Weather Channel Gets 20th Promo Deal: 20th Century Fox has bought a sponsorship package on The Weather Channel to support the film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” Weather Channel will run a week of episodes of its prime-time series “Storm Stories” featuring rescues at sea beginning Nov. 10. During those shows, 20th will run 30-second spots for the Russell Crowe film and receive customized show openings and billboards that promote the movie.