In continued fallout from Opie & Anthony's sex stunt in St. Patrick's Cathedral, parent Infinity Broadcasting is taking advantage of WNEW-FM's firing of the New York shock jocks to drop the FM-talker format. The firing has cost Infinity several million dollars in lost advertising, but Opie & Anthony's afternoon show was really the only thing working on the troubled station. Infinity's new CEO, John Sykes, is considering switching to either a Lite-FM or alternative-rock format that would be more expansive than Infinity's headbanging WKRQ-FM Edgewater, Fla. —J.M.H.
Sony Pictures Television hasn't decided whether to participate in Syndicated National Television Association's conference for advertisers in New York Feb. 25-26. Sony's Steve Mosko says he may instead host his own gathering for advertisers. Sony has already ramped up its syndication pitch, hiring a marketer to increase its face time among advertisers. Sources say SNTA is charging $300,000 per membership, then another $150,000 for the conference. Syndicators participating in the show include Buena Vista, Paramount, Universal, Tribune Entertainment, 20th Television, Warner Bros. Domestic and NBC Enterprises.—P.A.
Showtime had invited Washington-area schoolchildren to a premiere screening last week of Bang Bang You're Dead, an original drama about school violence based on the controversial one-act play by William Mastrosimone, who also executive-produced the Showtime drama. Ironically, the children were unable to attend because all outside activities had been canceled after a Maryland student was shot and seriously wounded outside his school by the sniper terrorizing the area. Teachers and others who did make the screening saw a powerful film and heard Mastrosimone praise Showtime Chairman/CEO Matt Blank for "putting your programming where your principles are."—J.E.
Disaffection with CNN's news ticker (or "creepy crawler" as some CNN viewers have dubbed it) appears to be infectious. Lou Dobbs (pictured) and Aaron Brown have made no secret of their disdain for the ubiquitous crawl.
On Moneyline, Dobbs often reads—with relish— viewer emails on the crawl, most of them protests. When one viewer wrote that the crawl is "distracting, infuriating, arrogant, self-important, the yellow journalism of the 21st century," Dobbs cheered, "Go, Gerald!" He says his favorite emails are from viewers who've blocked out the ticker with duct tape.
Speaking at a recent media gathering, Brown responded to CNN research showing 67% of viewers prefer the crawl: "Prefer it to what?" he deadpanned, "Freeze-dried coffee?"—A.R.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is considering opposing Univision's takeover of Hispanic Broadcasting. Staffers for caucus Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) (above) confirmed that the merger is being examined but would not say whether the group is yet inclined to ask federal regulators to block the deal. Programming diversity as well as potential layoffs will be factors in the decision, the staffer said. The Univision deal already is the subject of a $1.5 billion lawsuit by Spanish Broadcasting against radio-station giant Clear Channel. Spanish charges that Clear Channel wrecked negotiations that could have led to a merger between Spanish and Hispanic. Instead, Clear Channel "required" Hispanic to enter a merger agreement with Univision.—B.M.