In the Loop
The campaign to recall Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis could put extra bucks in the pockets of broadcasters and cable operators. If the current petition drive is successful, Rep. Darrell Issa is prepared to spend between $10 million and $18 million on TV and radio advertising in a bid to succeed Davis, according to Scott Taylor, campaign consultant for Issa for Governor.
Issa, a wealthy Republican, is behind Rescue California, which is leading the effort to collect the signatures of 897,158 voters by Sept. 2. Most observers believe it will make the deadline, which would mean a special election this fall or winter.
Carroll Wills, spokesperson for Taxpayers Against the Governor's Recall, says that the group has not "made any specific plans" for radio or TV ad buys.—H.S.
PBS President Pat Mitchell (right) cautioned Britain's House of Lords last week about a media world she says is dominated by a handful of conglomerates that have "swallowed each other up one after the other." Britain is debating its own version of media deregulation, and Mitchell was weighing in at the behest of friend and former producer Lord Puttnam. In her warning, she recalled this synergy moment at former boss AOL Time Warner: "I remember the virtues of this merger/acquisition being explained to senior management as an opportunity for consumers to be touched or connected with an AOL Time Warner product an average of 2.5 billion times a month."—J.E.
Sony America CEO Howard Stringer said Larry Tisch made one big mistake: Selling CBS without realizing how much largesse broadcasters can count on in D.C. Speaking in New York at a breakfast hosted by the Newhouse School of Communications, Stringer said former CBS Chairman Tisch wanted out in large part because of the erosion of broadcast viewership to cable. But the broadcasting business, he says, continues to be fueled by regular treats from the FCC and Congress.
"He couldn't have known that Washington was going to step in and rescue the networks in alternate years, which is really what's happened," said Stringer, who was president of CBS until Tisch sold it in 1995. "Every time there's a problem, they're rescued. I would have said, 'Larry, don't leave now. Let's go down to Washington and see what we could repeal this week.' He would have agreed with me. We just didn't see that coming."—J.M.H.
Clear Channel has an image problem. During the media-ownership proceeding, it took a lot of hits from dereg foes who painted it as a monolith with a few execs who dictate playlists for all 1,200 stations and advance a right-wing agenda. The Mays family controlling the publicly traded company doesn't see it that way and is increasing efforts to tell its story.
Last week, newly appointed corporate PR chief Lisa Dollinger was making the rounds of editors and reporters in New York City. The mission: 1) Explain that Clear Channel is a decentralized company committed to local management and service; 2) clear up any inaccuracies and misconceptions. To help the effort, Dollinger has hired PR firm Brainerd Communications and is searching for an in-house radio PR person.—H.A.J.
Political-ad dollars for 2004 campaigns may start flowing as early as fourth quarter 2003, which would be unprecedented. Gannett Chairman Doug McCorkindale told investors that he was at a dinner in Washington last week where some "political types" indicated "the White House wants to start advertising early." TVB officials report hearing "from a number of different stations" about inquiries into the early availability of political ad time. Political time could surpass $1 billion in '04.—S.M.