In the Loop
Michael Eisner has filed comments at the FCC in support of maintaining media-ownership rules and extending the comment period. No, it isn't the same one who oversees Disney and ABC. This Michael Eisner—no relation—is a geologist and environmental regulator working for the state of Maryland and just one of thousands of citizen complainers who have filed comments to the FCC Web site. Eisner cited the lack of news coverage of the issue by the major media, saying it has "at least the appearance of conflict of interest." He would also like to see more public hearings. "I'm a regulator, and I deal with the public-participation process," he says. "When we issue permits, we have multiple hearings around the state. The rapidity and the secrecy with which they are trying to do this is not a good omen for democracy."—J.E.
Money, that is. ABC asked its TV affiliates last week to make a financial contribution toward the network's upcoming bid for the U.S. TV rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics, which are being auctioned in a package June 5 by the International Olympics Committee. Sources say the network's proposal is similar to the Olympic payment mechanism set up by NBC and its affiliates—a combination of cash (deducted from compensation payments) and ad inventory. The cash and inventory add up to a $200 million contribution, sources said. All four of the major TV nets are expected to make bids, and all are expected to ask for some affiliate help. CBS has already raised the issue and will pursue further talks on the subject at its annual affiliate meeting after Memorial Day.—S.M.
Searching out the past journalistic transgression's of Jayson Blair has become something of a new pastime, encouraged, we might add, by his old bosses at the New York Times. Here's our contribution.
Before making headlines of his own with his work on the national desk, Blair spent some time on the paper's New York Metro desk. While there, he covered the Metropolitan TV Alliance's efforts to build a replacement TV transmission tower after 9/11. For the most part, the stories appear to have been embellishment-free. There was one misstep about a year ago, though, when he wrote an article that said broadcasters were pushing for a tower with a restaurant and observation deck. That came as a surprise to the MTVA, which told BROADCASTING & CABLE at the time that that wasn't the case and that, instead, a number of designs were under consideration. A source suggests that Blair was attempting to use the article to smoke out the real information from his source.—K.K.
Chicago's Tribune Co. has lobbied the FCC and Capitol Hill on eliminating the ban on local newspaper/broadcast crossownership but apparently hasn't made much headway at home. On May 7, the Chicago City Council voted 50-0 to oppose FCC plans to loosen the restriction and other media-ownership limits. The vote was no endorsement of Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune
as well as WGN-TV and -AM stations in the market, but not necessarily a swipe, said Barbara Popovich, head of Chicago's five cable access channels: "The real concern is a loss of local commitment, with radio as the most extreme example. Clear Channel now owns six channels here, and we understand the market's last jazz station is going by the wayside."—B.M.
Advocacy group Children Now will issue a report May 21 concluding that consolidation of TV markets diminishes programming aimed at kids. With the FCC set to allow TV duopolies in more markets, the study indicates a "dramatic" decrease in children's-TV programming in Los Angeles following creation of duopolies by NBC and Fox. The study counted the number of series each station broadcast, number of hours devoted, and how often the same shows were repeated across different stations.—B.M.