In the Loop
How far would NBC have gone to keep outgoing USA Network President Doug Herzog? He once ran MTV News and worked as a producer at CNN. So we weren't completely surprised when insiders said NBC had floated the idea of a news gig for Herzog—an entertainment guy —to keep him in the fold once the takeover of USA parent Vivendi Universal was complete (see page 4). The former MTV exec wanted to run the entire NBC entertainment cable group, a job that seems destined to go to NBC reality chief and Bravo President Jeff Gaspin. And NBC did woo Herzog with other jobs, like the series-production post held by David Kissinger. But a news gig would put Herzog on NBC News President Neil Shapiro's turf. Shapiro is in charge of both broadcast and cable news operations. A spokesman for NBC Entertainment chief Jeff Zucker says he offered Herzog "the opportunity to think out of the box about anything he might be interested in. He never discussed specifics of news." Herzog had no comment.
Even though he was a guy running a sports network, Leo Hindery didn't go to many baseball games. Ever since he was tapped to launch the New York Yankees' YES Network, he has deflected our inquiries about his devotion to the game. When he was running his own cable company in San Francisco or TCI and AT&T Broadband in Denver, we don't recall his ever mentioning baseball. Car racing? Endlessly. (Hindery races a Porsche 911 professionally.) But Hindery is resigning from YES, having won a brutal distribution fight with Cablevision Systems. Now he admits to watching lots of baseball on TV but rarely attended games before working for George Steinbrenner. "I don't like crowds," Hindery explains. Rest easy. As YES chairman, at least for now, the Yankees give him the highest-class box seats.
Despite the outcry over TV indecency, no one expected the raunchy South Park
to tone down. Still, watching a cartoon Mel Gibson defecate on Cartman was a first. (Cartman was dressed as Hitler and idolized Gibson for what he saw as anti-Semitism in The Passion of the Christ.) How many critics complained to Comedy Central after the episode run a couple of weeks ago? Zero. The network says it got 40 viewer comments on the episode. Ten e-mailers praised it, 10 complained about its criticizing the film, and the remainder were relatively incoherent. None mentioned the toilet humor.
What starts with an A and gives broadcasters a royal pain? "Ascertainment." Until the mid '80s, broadcasters were required by the FCC to schedule appointments with dozens of community leaders to discover—or ascertain—significant social problems. Lots of broadcasters thought it was a waste of time and money. Now we hear Chairman Michael Powell will launch his oft-mentioned inquiry to determine if broadcasters need new public-interest obligations. Two possible requirements: making stations air more kids programs and reviving the dreaded A word. Expect an uproar.