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News Briefs: Powell Weighs In on FCC Report Flap

Sep 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell said last week he knows nothing about the quashing of an agency study that would have undercut his push to loosen media ownership rules. The 2004 study, unveiled by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., at a Senate hearing Tuesday, was produced under Mr. Powell as part of the FCC’s look into how media ownership affects TV news programming. The study said that locally owned stations average 5.5 more minutes of local news per half-hour of news than stations owned by distant media companies. That finding would have conflicted with the FCC’s push at the time to ease media ownership rules and allow more out-of-town ownership of stations. “He said he never saw the report, never heard of it until yesterday and never ordered it destroyed,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Powell said Friday. Adam Candeub, a law professor at Michigan State University who worked under Mr. Powell as a lawyer in the FCC Media Bureau, told TelevisionWeek Thursday that agency officials came into the office one day and told the two researchers to halt work on the study. “They said that the project was dead, and to delete computer records,” Mr. Candeub said.-IRA TEINOWITZ

Football Franchises Draw Big Audiences

The first week of NFL football scored big audiences for networks in the first year of new contracts with the league. NBC’s new “Sunday Night Football” franchise opened with a bang as the ballyhooed matchup of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning against his little brother Eli Manning of the New York Giants registered a 16.6 Nielsen Media Research household rating, 25 share and 22.6 million total viewers. NBC’s totals were up from both the opener of “Monday Night Football” on ABC a year ago, which pulled 19.6 million viewers, and the kickoff ESPN’s “Sunday Night Football” a year ago, which drew 11.2 million viewers. This season “Monday Night Football” is on ESPN, which opened with a double-header. The first game drew a 7.1 rating and 10.5 million viewers; the late game drew an 8.2 rating and 12.6 million viewers. The audience for the second game was ESPN’s largest ever and was the largest for a cable network since CNN’s coverage of the Al Gore-Ross Perot NAFTA debate in 1993. The late game of Fox’s Sunday afternoon double-header was the most-watched show of the week, with a 14.3 rating, 28 share and 22.7 million viewers. The ratings were up 4 percent compared with the first game of last year.-JON LAFAYETTE

Hansen Named UTA Alternative TV Chief

Beverly Hills-based talent agency UTA has named agent Brett Hansen head of the agency’s alternative television department. The department had been run by agent Chris Coelen, who departed UTA in February to run RDF Media USA. In addition, UTA has named Feroz Taj to agent in the department. Mr. Taj has been training under Mr. Hansen and will join the ranks of the alternative department agents.-CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Klug to Direct `60 Minutes’

“48 Hours Mystery” director Robert Klug, a CBS News veteran, has been tapped to direct the new season of “60 Minutes” in addition to his duties on “48 Hours.” He will be responsible for the look and feel of the broadcast. Alicia Tanz Flaum continues to be the director in charge of handling the day-to-day duties of putting the broadcast together. Arthur Bloom, the former “60 Minutes” television director, died in January. -TOM GILBERT

Sunbeam Buying Tribune’s WLVI-TV in Boston

Sunbeam Television said last Thursday it agreed to acquire the assets of WLVI-TV, Boston, from Tribune Co. for $113.7 million. Operations of the CW affiliate will be combined with those of Sunbeam’s WHDH-TV, an NBC affiliate. Sunbeam plans to rebrand WLVI’s newscast as “7 News on CW56.” Under terms of the agreement, the approximately 100 WLVI staffers remain employees of Tribune Co. Sunbeam Owner Ed Ansin said he expects to add about 30 people in all departments to the WHDH staff. He expects many of those added staffers to be from WLVI. Sunbeam also owns WSVN-TV in Miami.-JON LAFAYETTE