News Articles

Fast Track

7/07/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Indecency Double Take

The FCC wants a second look at shows it recently ruled profane. That request has divided the networks and affiliates, which originally teamed to fight the rulings in court.

Last week, the commission asked the New York court to let it take another crack at four unusual indecency findings it levied against “fleeting profanities,” issued as part of its omnibus March indecency order.

The affiliates and the networks together had challenged the findings. But CBS, NBC, Fox and Fox affiliates Friday filed their opposition to the FCC's request for a remand of the profanity findings. ABC, by contrast, has filed in support of the FCC. All the affiliates but Fox's supported the remand.

The other networks would have joined their affiliates in supporting it if FCC Chairman Kevin Martin had stayed the toughened stand on fleeting profanities until the commission had reviewed those decisions. He did not, and the networks have all asked the court to impose the stay even if it grants the remand.

The networks are concerned that an errant curse word on a TV-station news program could be found indecent and now subject to a $325,000 fine, unless an amendment to a Senate telecom bill survives (see Washington Watch, p. 13).

Affiliates are concerned, but several sources say they are also interested in staying in Martin's good graces given his support for key issues like loosening ownership rules and granting multicast must-carry. An FCC spokesman had no comment.

The four rulings were unusual because, ordinarily, the FCC proposes an indecency finding—and fine—and gives stations a chance to defend themselves. But, saying it wanted to give stations the clarity they sought on what the commission considered indecent, the FCC found two Billboard Music Awards on Fox, an NYPD Blue episode and a CBS Early Show installment indecent for fleeting profanities without fining them, without holding it against them at renewal time and without providing normal appeals.

The FCC now says it wants to provide stations the chance to defend themselves, with a promise to rule again within 60 days. In the meantime, the FCC has asked the court to delay hearing the case. Opening briefs are due July12. So the court is expected to decide before then.

'Family Guy' To Trib

To the surprise of many, Twentieth TV has sold off-network adult animated sitcom Family Guy to the Tribune station group for a fall 2007 launch.

Tribune is estimated to have paid in the low to mid six figures per episode, on par with what Warner Bros. got from Tribune recently for Two and a Half Men. Tribune, Twentieth and Warner Bros. would not comment on price.

The off-Fox series, now in its fifth season on the network, goes to Tribune under a straight four-year deal with no extensions. The initial batch of 96 episodes of Family Guy was widely thought to be headed for the Fox station group.—Jim Benson

Gibson Boosts 'World News'

Since Charles Gibson took over ABC's World News Tonight in late May, the show has made strides against its main rival, NBC's Nightly News With Brian Williams.

For the last week of June, the two newscasts tied in the key 25-54 demographic at a 2.0 rating/9 share. NBC attracted a larger audience, 7.74 million viewers to ABC's 7.4 million. CBS was third with a 1.7/7 in the demo and 6.8 million viewers.

While news viewership is generally lighter in the summer months, ABC's recent moves are still notable. ABC edged out NBC in 25-54s during the week of June 19-23, with a 2.1/9 to NBC's 2.0/9, while NBC won in total viewers with 7.63 million to ABC's 7.46 million. The previous week ended similarly, with ABC winning the demo and NBC claiming a larger audience.

—Allison Romano

Corrections

Marshall Fine is a TV and film critic for Star magazine. The list of critics participating in the B&C Critics Poll (6/26, p. 20) incorrectly stated his place of employment.

The 52-week high of Emmis Communications stock price was $24.49 per share (6/26, p. 14). Also, two Emmis directors are former employees of Morgan Stanley, whose affiliations were reversed.

Univision Deal Spurs Rival

By spurning a buyout offer led by one of its investors and main programming supplier, Univision Communications may have created a new rival.

Mexican broadcast giant Televisa, which owns an 11% stake in Univision and supplies the bulk of its programming, is seeking to sell its stake in Univision after it failed in a bid to acquire the leading U.S. Spanish-language media company with a group of private equity firms. Televisa says divesting its stake will allow it “to engage in new business opportunities in the growing U.S. Hispanic marketplace.”

Univision surprised many this month when it turned down an offer by a Televisa-led consortium and accepted a bid from five private equity firms, including one backed by media mogul Haim Saban. The Televisa group was hampered by several investors dropping out and submitted one bid for $35.75 per share, which was rejected.

It took two bids for the rival group, which includes Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group, to prevail. After initially offering $35.50 per share, which was rejected, the consortium returned with $36.25 per share. The offer includes the assumption of $1.4 billion in debt.

One possible move for Televisa could be distributing its shows to U.S. audiences on the Internet, although it is not clear which company holds those rights in the United States. Univision says Televisa's action will have no impact on its programming deal, which it says is exclusive in the U.S. and Puerto Rico through 2017, or its proposed sale.

Univision is also facing two shareholder lawsuits. Filed in Los Angeles Supreme Court, both claim the offer benefits insiders but not shareholders. —Allison Romano

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