News Articles

Fast Track

3/13/2005 07:00:00 PM Eastern
Items:

Pols Take Porn Money

New Front Moves In at Weather

Scripps Sets New Sales Strategy

Rather Exits With “Courage”

FCC Salutes Powell

Stern Out at DirecTV

Cable Execs Back New Cable Net

Clinton Revives 'Media Health' Bill

NBC Pulls 'Pauley'

Tough Talk on First Amendment

Pols Take Porn Money

An activist group is labeling 15 members of Congress as hypocrites for waging public campaigns
against pornography while taking campaign contributions from cable companies,
hotel chains and phone companies that profit from X-rated entertainment.

“These members allege support for legislation penalizing obscenity
one moment and fill their campaign coffers with pornography profits the
next,” says a report issued by Citizens for
Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
. CREW says the lawmakers
took in $433 million in contributions from companies like Comcast, Time Warner,
Marriott and AT&T during the 2002 and 2004 campaign cycles. The
companies profit enormously from adult movies on pay TV, in-room movies and
phone sex (see page 12).

According to CREW, the top recipient of “porn profits” is
House Telecom Chairman Fred Upton, whose campaign received $56,000 from
companies that earn some portion of their revenue from adult entertainment.
Others include Sens. John McCain ($46,000),
Sam Brownback ($17,000), and
Joe Lieberman ($16,000). Brownback will
preside over a Judiciary Committee hearing on
prosecuting obscenity Wednesday.

Upton declined to comment. A press aide for Lieberman says the
donations come from “huge, diversified companies” with many products, most
of them good. When it's time for vote on porn, Lieberman will back
legislation increasing penalties or outlawing obscenity, she said.

New Front Moves In at Weather

The Weather Channel unveiled a new
logo and marketing campaign, “Bringing Weather to Life,” aimed at what
President Patrick Scott calls “vitalists,”
defined as a cross between viewers who are actively interested in weather and
“planners” who use the channel to schedule their lives. The spots focus on
families flying kites or business “drones” suddenly having snowball fights.
The new campaign is part of a long-running effort to reduce the network's
reliance on what executives call “commodity” viewers, who just stop in to
quickly check a forecast for a few minutes, then click off. That means the
networks needs more shows that were once the province of Discovery Channel, like Weather's
Storm
Chasers
.

New programming includes a magazine show, Weekend View, airing
Saturdays and Sundays at 7-11 a.m. ET.

Scripps Sets New Sales Strategy

Scripps Networks will sell all of its
cable networks together as it enters this year's upfront advertising market.
In the past, the programmer's sales operation pitched its networks in pairs.
HGTV and DIY
sold together, and Food Network was tied with
Fine Living.

But at Scripps' upfront advertising presentation, EVP of Ad Sales
Steven Gigliotti noted increasing crossover
among HGTV's home-makeover advertisers and Food Net's cooking clients.
“It made sense to sell across all of them, he said. The move also lets
Scripps push opportunities on Scripps home shopping network,
Shop-At-Home.

Rather Exits With “Courage”

An obviously emotional Dan Rather
signed off from the CBS Evening
News With Dan Rather
on March 9, 24 years to the day
after he began. He resurrected his one-time trademark sign-off, “Courage,”
but expanded it to address military men in harm's way, a nation “still
nursing a broken heart” after 9/11, the tsunami victims, those in
“financial hardship or failing health,” and his fellow journalists
reporting from places where “reporting truth means risking all.”

CBS News staffers applauded Rather as
they gathered around him after he signed off. The after-the-show toasts,
we're told, numbered more than 50 and lasted a couple hours.

According to early returns from 56 Nielsen metered markets, the newscast, usually third
among network newscasts, won the night with a 7.3 rating/13 share. Coming in
second was NBC Nightly
News
, with a 6.5/12, followed by ABC's World News Tonight with a 6.4/12.

FCC Salutes Powell

FCC Chairman Michael Powell delivered an emotional farewell as he
presided over his last monthly commission meeting March 10. “There is nothing
cooler than sitting here thinking you are working solely on the behalf of the
American people,” he said from the dais of the FCC meeting room. He hasn't
announced his official last day but could step down as soon as Friday, March
18.

Commissioner Michael Copps, who
orchestrated a campaign against Powell's plan to deregulate
broadcast-ownership rules praised the chairman as a “warm, engaging and
bright human being.”

Republican Commissioner Kevin Martin
is widely regarded as Powell's successor, but a dark-horse rival is
Michael Gallagher, head of the
National Telecommunications and Information
Administration
, an arm of the White House that advises the
administration on telecom policy.

Stern Out at DirecTV

Mitch Stern is out as president/CEO
of DirecTV Inc. after a little over one year
in the post. His departure was called a mutual decision between
Chase Carey, president/CEO of the
DirecTV Group, and Stern, who added 1.1
million subscribers in 2004. Those subs came at a cost, though, because DirecTV
invested heavily in advertising, commission and subsidies, hurting cash flow,
and Carey told investors two months ago the DBS leader had to improve margins.
Carey will take over day-to-day operations.

Cable Execs Back New Cable Net

A new hybrid infomercial network is starting up with investments from
group of senior cable executives, including former Time
Warner
CEO Nick Nicholas,
ex-Court TV President Dick Beahrs and ex-HBO exec Thayer
Bigelow
. Avoiding the direct-sell of infomercials and home shopping,
the core programming of Expo TV will be the
kind of broad product information that viewers use Consumer Reports and
the Web for. But commercials will be longer-form, running 2-5 minutes instead
of just 30 seconds.

Clinton Revives 'Media Health' Bill

In the wake of a new Kaiser Family
Foundation
study showing that kids are increasing their media usage
and multitasking those media at the same time, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is reintroducing a bill to create
a government-administered media-research program under the
National Institutes of Health.

The program would study the links between media and child development
and between media consumption and childhood obesity, a growing national health
risk.

The Kaiser study found that, since 1999, children's and teens'
exposure to media has gone up by more than an hour, from 7:29 per day to 8:33,
most of the increase coming from videogames or recreational computer time.

But since much of that has become multi-layered usage—surfing the
Web while watching TV, for example—the total number of hours of media usage
has stayed virtually the same (6:19 in 1999 vs. 6:21 in the newest study).

NBC Pulls 'Pauley'

NBC Universal Television finally
yanked the plug on long-suffering talker The Jane Pauley Show. Production will
continue, with the syndicator promising to keep stations stoked with new
episodes through May sweeps. The show was a bust from the beginning. The former
Today show host had garnered rocky ratings
since her debut last August, and stations started moving it out of prime slots
almost immediately. NBC Universal has been openly talking about pulling the
plug since January.

“We started out with an enormous vote of confidence from our
stations and have seen our audience grow steadily from November until now,”
Pauley says in a statement, “but it came too late for too many to stick with
us.”

Tough Talk on First Amendment

The White House, the courts and the FCC all took hits from broadcast journalists who said
last week that they were feeling under fire from a manipulative and even
malicious government.

NBC News President
Neal Shapiro set the tone, telling a roomful
of top journalists gathered for the Radio and Television
News Directors Foundation
awards dinner in Washington that the press
is under attack as never before from the Executive and Judicial Branches, which
he says are pursuing journalists with “actual malice” just for doing their
jobs.

It's time to “sound the alarm,” he said. That call was picked up
by other speakers and punctuated with applause from the crowd.

Shapiro cited “a handful of scandals” that have tarred the
broadcast industry and a post-9/11 climate that contributed to the crackdown.
He advised journalists to do a better job of showing themselves as reporters,
rather than entertainers.

ABC's Sam
Donaldson
, master of ceremonies, said he had never seen such
“vitriolic animus” toward journalists, save for the waning days of the
Nixon administration.

Veteran CBS newsman
Ed Bradley took up the charge in his
acceptance speech for the Leonard Zeidenberg First
Amendment Award
(named for the late B&C correspondent).

Bradley talked of the pressure by government and corporations to
“control the message,” saying journalists must fight those efforts.
“There is a price to pay,” he said, for representing the people.

Liberty station group President
Jim Keelor, winner of the
First Amendment Leadership Award, had a bone
to pick with the FCC over its indecency rulings: “The FCC is getting more
political every day.”

September
October