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Apr 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Rep. Barton Warns Cable Operators on Indecency

If cable TV operators don’t tone down indecency in cable TV programming on their own, Congress will do it for them. That was the pitch from Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, during the National Association of Broadcasters convention Monday in Las Vegas. “My guess is in the foreseeable future there will be legislation … so everybody plays by the same ground rules,” the congressman said.

As it stands, cable TV and satellite are exempt from indecency regulations, including pending legislation that would beef up penalties for off-color broadcasting.

But during an NAB session Monday Rep. Barton, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said he believes regulatory discrimination is unfair. The congressman said cable industry leaders have advised him that they are taking steps to address his concerns through voluntary self-regulation.

He said he would give cable “self-regulation some time to work,” but he also said he doubts the steps will go far enough. He said he doesn’t think Congress will move against cable immediately, but will more likely take action “in the next three or four years.”

In opening remarks to the convention Eddie Fritts, NAB president and CEO, also blasted regulatory discrimination. In addition he announced that Gary Chapman, chairman and CEO of LIN Television, and David Kennedy of Susquehanna Broadcasting have been named to co-chair an industry task force that is supposed to consider adopting a code on indecency broadcasting.

Sherwood Named ‘GMA’ Executive Producer: ABC News made official Monday what has been widely known since last week when Shelley Ross was named executive producer of “PrimeTime Thursday”: Ben Sherwood is the new executive producer of “Good Morning America.”

Mr. Sherwood, for whom this will be a maiden assignment in morning television and as a showrunner, will start Monday, April 26, and will report to Phyllis McGrady, senior VP of ABC News.

He worked as an investigative producer on “PrimeTime Live” during its early years and on “NBC Nightly News,” where he rose to senior broadcast producer during nearly five years there.

In 2002, he left TV to focus on a promising career as a novelist that had jump-started with “The Man Who Ate the 747” and that has just recently produced “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.” Both are being developed for the big screen.

After meeting with the “GMA” staff, Mr. Sherwood said he would come back because he had learned that he could leave the news business, but the new business didn’t leave him.

As for why he was re-entering the business as the executive producer of a critical 10 hours of live TV a week with which ABC News hopes to narrow the gap with top-ranked “Today” on NBC, Mr. Sherwood said the morning-news mandate “involves all of my passions,” from hard news and politics to pop culture. “It’s got everything.”

“Ben’s talent for rich storytelling, his wide range of interests and his familiarity with the daily rhythms of breaking news make him a great choice to join ‘Good Morning America,'” said ABC News President David Westin in the announcement. “I am pleased Ben has agreed to return to ABC News to take on this new challenge.”

“‘Good Morning America’ is one of the great treasures in broadcasting,” Mr. Sherwood said in the announcement. “Personally and professionally, I’m thrilled to return to ABC News and work closely with Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson, Robin Roberts, Tony Perkins and the whole ‘GMA’ team. I look forward to the exciting challenge of building on the program’s great achievements over the past five years, and I’ll do everything I can to uphold the highest standards and long tradition of integrity at ABC News.”

Bare Named KHWB General Manager: After 11 years with KHWB-TV in Houston, the past six as general sales manager, Roger Bare has been named VP and general manager of the Tribune Broadcasting-owned station. Mr. Bare succeeds Tom Ehlmann, who is to become VP and general manager at WGN-TV in Chicago on Monday, April 26.

Prior to joining KHWB, Mr. Bare held several sales manager and account executive positions at KRBE-FM and KLDE-FM, Houston; WTQR-FM, Winston-Salem, N.C.; and WCHV-AM, Charlottesville, Va.

Fox Sets June 8 for New Season Roll Out: Fox will roll out its new season Tuesday, June 8. The net will debut six series in June-dramas “The Jury” and “North Shore,” sitcoms “Method & Red” and “The Quintuplets” and reality shows “The Casino” and “The Simple Life 2.” All of the new series also have same-week repeats scheduled. Fox kicks off its season with an original episode of “Bernie Mac” at 8 p.m. June 8, followed by a repeat “Bernie Mac.” “The Jury” debuts at 9 p.m, repeats with “The Jury” at 9 p.m., Fridays.

On Monday, June 14, Fox will premiere two new shows: “North Shore” from 8-9 p.m. and “The Casino” from 9-10 p.m. Repeats of “North Shore” will air at 8 p.m. Fridays, while repeats of “The Casino” will air Thursdays from 9-10 p.m.

Fox will kick off an all-comedy Wednesday lineup June 16, with a special bonus episode of “The Simple Life 2” at 8 p.m., followed by “Quintuplets” at 8:30 p.m., “The Simple Life 2” at 9 p.m. and “Method & Red” at 9:30 p.m. Beginning June 23, Wednesday nights will kick off with repeats of “That ’70s Show.” “Quintuplets” will repeat Sundays at 8:30-9 p.m. and “Method & Red” will repeat Tuesdays at 8:30-9 p.m. starting June 22.

On Thursday nights, beginning June 17, Fox will air “Totally Outrageous Behavior” at 8 p.m. and “World’s Craziest Videos” at 8:30 p.m., followed by “The Casino” repeats at 9 p.m. Saturday’s lineup of back-to-back episodes of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” remains the same. Fox’s Sunday lineup will kick off June 20 with original episodes of “Oliver Beene” from 7-7:30 p.m., followed by repeats of “King of the Hill” at 7:30 p.m., “The Simpsons” at 8 p.m., “Quintuplets” at 8:30 p.m., “Malcolm in the Middle” at 9 p.m. and “Arrested Development” at 9:30 p.m.

Smulyan to Announce Multichannel Pay TV Plan: Emmis Communications Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan plans to announce tomorrow the details of a new plan that would allow broadcasters to launch multichannel pay TV services Mr. Smulyan will discuss his plan at a briefing Tuesday during the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. In a hallway interview this morning, Mr. Smulyan said the plan essentially calls for broadcasters to pool their digital TV frequencies to offer up to 50 standard-definition TV channels in each market, along with five or six HDTV signals.

The broadcast partners in the venture, he said, could divvy up the $25 per subscriber he believes could be charged for a package that would include standard cable networks. “We’re going to roll this out,” said Mr. Smulyan, in a preview during the Association of Maximum Service Television meeting Monday. “There’s nothing that cable does that we can’t replicate at a lower cost,” Mr. Smulyan said. During Tuesday’s briefing, Mr. Smulyan said he also plans to announce his partners for the venture. “We’d like to launch it as soon as possible,” Mr. Smulyan said.

ABC’s Liss Says No Station Purchases Imminent: The head of ABC’s owned-and-operated television stations said he is not opposed to acquiring more TV stations but won’t overpay just for the sake of boosting the network-owned station count beyond the current level of 10.

“”We’d love to own more, and we have looked at one deal after another for a long time,” said Walter Liss, president of ABC-Owned Television Stations Monday at a media and entertainment conference sponsored by investment banking firm A.G. Edwards.

But while Mr. Liss acknowledged he would like to own more stations in large markets, he said he has not come across a transaction that “is big enough to move the needle.”

“It’s all about what you pay for them,” he said. “We have not been willing to overpay just to grow.”

Warner Bros. Promotes Goldstein: Leonard Goldstein has been upped to executive VP, development, at Warner Bros. Television. He replaces Steve Pearlman, who is leaving the position June 1 to start his own production company.

Mr. Goldstei
n joined Warner Bros. in 1997 in the drama development department and helped create hits including “Smallville,” “Everwood” and “Without a Trace.” He was named senior VP of comedy development in 2002 and supervised the development of freshman sitcoms “Two and a Half Men,” “I’m With Her, “Eve” and “All of Us.”

“Len is one of the most outstanding creative executives I have ever worked with,” said Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth, to whom Mr. Goldstein will report. “His contributions in both comedy and drama development over the past seven years have been vital to the success of our division. His ability to find and nurture creative talent, combined with his stellar industry relationships, make him the clear choice for this position.”

Fox Networks Creates Division: Fox Networks Group has created the Fox Networks Engineering & Operations division to oversee network engineering and operations for Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox Cable Networks and Fox Sports. It will be based in Los Angeles under Richard Friedel, executive VP and general manager of Fox Networks Engineering & Operations, who will supervise broadcast and transmission operations, production and post-production, field operations, engineering and facility service activities within the new unit. Mr. Friedel will report to Andrew G. Setos, president of engineering for the Fox Group. The new unit draws upon and combines the physical resources and expertise of Fox Digital in Los Angeles and Fox Cable Networks’ Technical Operations Center in Houston.

WLMO-TV to Become CBS Affiliate: WLMO-TV, a low-power station owned by Ohio-based Metro Video Productions, will become the first CBS affiliate in Lima, Ohio, effective Aug. 1. Currently, the station in the 185th-largest TV market carries the America One lineup, which consists of Western, equestrian, and American values programming and is available to more than 20 million households nationwide via broadcast, cable and satellite distribution systems.

Fiorina Keynotes at NAB: Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina, urged television broadcasters to use the power of digital technology to tell stories of achievement and hope, in the opening keynote speech at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas on April 19. She also outlined the digital revolution that is changing the broadcast business and said that broadcasters are not going through just one revolution but three.

“We have entered an era in which every process and all content is going from analog, static and physical to digital, mobile and virtual,” she said. “Every industry is being changed by the digital revolution.”

The first revolution is occurring at the production level, where digital cameras and technology are changing the way content is shot and produced, but that transition is still hampered because digital technology often exists in islands that don’t speak a common language, she said. “Which is part of the reason that companies like HP are working so hard to bring open standards-a key part of having a common language to this part of broadcasting,” she said. She continued, “We are leveraging HP technologies, services, solutions and research to build out a digital media platform to help this industry capitalize on the digital revolution.”

The second revolution is happening at the industry level, since broadcasters must turn over their analog spectrum by 2006 to move to digital. The third revolution, she said, occurs at the individual level as communication becomes completely personalized, a change that will not only impact business models, but also, she hopes, storytelling. “As digital technology enlarges our sense of what it possible, consumers today not only expect more from us, they expect more of us,” she said. “The way fact are presented, the way news is told, will define our history. I wonder why we don’t see more stories that celebrate human achievement. We need to see stories of people who are acting to make a positive difference in the world, who are acting to change the order of things. … We can only progress if people believe things can be made better, that things can be made different, that change can happen.”

ESPN to Launch New Season of ‘Dream Job’: ESPN plans to launch a second installment of “Dream Job,” a show that searches for a new “SportsCenter” anchor. The new season of “Dream Job” will air in January 2005. ESPN anchor Stuart Scott will return as host of the series, which averaged a 1.2 rating and more than 1 million viewers each week. ESPN Original Entertainment will produce “Dream Job” in conjunction with Jumbolaya Productions and BlondEndeavor.

Magna Global Reports Decline in Sports Viewership: Sports viewing declined in 2003, according to a new report from media buying company Magna Global. Men spent an average of 2.58 hours per week watching sports on national broadcast and cable in 2003, compared with 2.87 hours in 2002, when viewership rose from the previous year. (Subtracting the Olympics, men watched 2.73 hours per week in 2002.) The report added that if local broadcasts, regional cable sports channels, satellite viewing and pay-per-view were added, sports viewing “likely” would have shown an increase.

Promax Launches Conference Contest: Promax launched a “Hey, Did You See That!” contest for news promotion producers with the grand prize winners receiving free trips to the June Promax & BDA Conference in New York. Promo producers can submit work in three categories: Best Local News Promotion, Best Promo Done on a Dime and Best Breaking News Promo Produced in an Instant.

The winners will present their spots during the conference’s News Promotion Session, moderated by Jeff Kreiner, VP and creative director, CBS News Advertising and Promotion. Mr. Kreiner will give the winners a personally guided tour of the CBS News studios in New York.

Gemstar, Nielsen Launch IPG Research: Gemstar-TV Guide International and Nielsen Media Research announced the launch of a consumer research trial to gather data on how consumers use interactive program guides (IPG) and the impact of IPGs on television viewing behavior. Gemstar-TV Guide is supplying Nielsen with 500 set-top boxes equipped with TV Guide On Screen, Gemstar-TV Guide’s IPG for consumer electronics products.

Nielsen is installing the set-top boxes in 300 U.S. households that were recent participants in Nielsen meter studies and do not currently have an IPG in the home. In addition to supplying the set-top boxes, TV Guide will provide customer service support to the participating households, and will collect, process and supply the data to Nielsen. Nielsen in turn will audit the data collection and processing system and reports generated from the click-stream data.

Panasonic, Sony Announce Tapeless Customers: Panasonic announced Sunday during the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas that several large television station groups have made significant investments in its new P2 next-generation tapeless camcorder system for use this year. Those groups include Sinclair, Liberty and Scripps-Howard.

In addition, Media General plans to convert six of its stations to P2 equipment this year, with all 19 to be outfitted by 2006.

Sony Electronics also offers a tapeless camcorder based on optical disc technology. The so-called XDCam equipment has been purchased by ABC-owned WLS-TV and Fox-owned WFLD-TV in Chicago, as well as Post-Newsweek-owned NBC station KPRC-TV in Houston.

One of the largest investments in Panasonic’s P2 was made by Time Warner’s 24-hour news channel NY1 News in New York, which bought more than $1.2 million worth of P2 equipment. The cable news channel plans to convert its news operations completely to P2 technology, Panasonic said.

Scripps-Howard will use P2 camcorders at ABC affiliate WEWS-TV in Cleveland, with other stations to follow. Sinclair purchased P2s for starters at its Buffalo, New York, WB station WNYO-TV. Liberty plans to convert to P2 at three or four TV stations this year, with the rest of its 15 stations to follow.

Panasonic also said a number of leading broadcast equipment makers have mad
e their products P2-compatible. Thomson Broadcast and Media Solutions said it has integrated P2 capability into its news editing products. “We think the P2 technology is a watershed for the broadcast industry and we are integrating it across a number of products,” said Michael Cronk, VP, server/storage and digital news production business unit at Thomson.

Like Panasonic, Sony announced that its XDCam technology is now compatible with non-linear equipment from vendors including Avid, Leitch, Grass Valley, Quantel and Omnibus.

Both Panasonic and Sony said they plan to increase the availability of HD equipment. Over the next two years, Panasonic will expand the P2 line with HD-compatible equipment, such as a variable-frame-rate camcorder, said Yoshihiko Yamada, VP, Panasonic AVC Networks.

Sony intends to ramp up its share of HDTV sets in the United States, now at 30 percent of the market, said Tim Baxter, senior VP home products division at Sony. “Our plan is to have 35 HD and HDTV-ready solutions to bring to market this [fiscal year],” Mr. Baxter said. In addition, 19 of those sets will include CableCARD plug-and-play capability.

Sony also plans an aggressive marketing program to drive awareness of HD, including a partnership with cable operator Cox to deliver and promote San Diego Padres baseball in HD and with NBC to produce the first summer Olympics in HD with this summer’s Athens games using Sony HD cameras, Mr. Baxter said.

Thomson Introduces HD Slow Mo System: In what has been called the missing link in HD sports production, Thomson announced Sunday at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas the availability of its Grass Valley LDK 6200 HD Super Slow Motion Digital Camera System. “This is something that has been expected by our customers,” said Marc Valentine, president of Thomson Broadcast and Media Solutions. In fact, Bob Ross, senior VP, East Coast operations, for CBS said earlier in this month that CBS hoped to round out its HD sports production equipment needs at the show with the purchase of such a slow-motion machine, though he did not say whether CBS would buy the Thomson system.