President Bush has resurrected a proposal to hit TV stations with $500 million in annual spectrum fees as part of his fiscal 2005 budget. Under the plan, commercial stations would have to pay the fees every year, starting in 2007, until they return their analog TV channels to the federal government. The president has included similar proposals in previous budgets. But after encountering opposition from broadcasters, Congress refused to enact them. The fees are supposed to serve as an incentive for broadcasters to switch to their digital channels. In a statement, the National Association of Broadcasters said the levies would ultimately slow the transition. “Congress has wisely rejected spectrum taxes on broadcasters for a number of years because lawmakers recognize the timetable for the transition to digital television will be determined by consumer acceptance and not by arbitrary government dictates,” the NAB said.
On the Move
Several top TV players made significant status changes last week. HBO elevated Carolyn Strauss to the title of president, HBO Entertainment, and Sheila Nevins to president, HBO Documentary and Family. Ms. Strauss and Ms. Nevins had been executive VPs. … ABC’s head of drama development, Thom Sherman, said he is leaving the network to become president of J.J. Abrams’ production company Bad Robot Television. His move came at the same time that Mr. Abrams, creator and executive producer of ABC’s “Alias,” signed a new multiyear deal with Touchstone Television. Mr. Sherman is exiting early from his contract. The network has yet to name a replacement. … Maria Shriver has been relieved of her duties with NBC News. Ms. Shriver has arranged to do documentaries and special projects for NBC-owned properties and other cable and public broadcasting outlets while her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is governor of California. … Sony Pictures Television retained Jeff Grant, former president of worldwide programming at media agency MediaVest, as a consultant. Sony hired Mr. Grant to identify and explore opportunities in client-supplied programming.
ESPN Cancels `Playmakers’
In the week after the NFL was embarrassed by the Super Bowl halftime show, ESPN said pressure from the league factored into a decision to kill ESPN’s critically acclaimed first scripted series, “Playmakers.” “Many considerations went into this decision, not the least of which was the reaction from a longtime and valued partner,” Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive VP, programming and production, said in a statement. The series depicted a fictional pro football team whose members took drugs and chased women and whose owners took ethically and legally dubious actions.
More Reality Programming in the Pipe
Several reality series orders were placed last week. NBC picked up a second season of “The Apprentice,” targeted for a fall premiere date. Donald Trump will return as the boss and will executive produce the show with Mark Burnett. … Lifetime Television ordered an updated “Queen for a Day,” produced by the Gurin Co., as a special in June. The new show will recognize women who do good deeds. … TBS made a deal with Bruce Nash on a reality show companion to “Sex and the City.” TBS’s not-yet-titled relationship series from Mr. Nash is expected to debut June 22, along with an episode of “Sex and the City.” The off-network run of HBO’s “Sex” is expected to debut on TBS June 15. … Rocket Science Laboratories, producers of Fox’s “Joe Millionaire” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance,” is seeking its contestants through the Web site www.familytimecasting.com. The hour-long series will chronicle families undergoing total makeovers that include changes to their homes, wardrobes and life issues. The show will air on Fox, with which Rocket Science has a first-look development deal, though Fox officials would not confirm the series order.