BC Beat


With Michael Malone, John Eggerton and Anne Becker

For more BC Beat, Go to www.bcbeat.com

Baltimore Stations Not Tapping Into 'Wire'

If B&C's annual critics poll is any indication, HBO's The Wire has a strong following among media types.

And now that the Baltimore-based drama is taking on the decline of newspaper journalism for its fifth and final season—with a fictionalized Baltimore Sun city room as ground zero—the ink-stained wretches at the real Sun have been watching closely.

But not so much at B-more's TV stations. The Sun—where Wire creator David Simon long toiled as a police reporter—has published a number of stories about the show, and even has a special Wire section on its Website where readers can vote for their favorite character (Omar, of course). But none of the local station managers we polled so much as admitted to watching the show.

"It's not exactly on our radar screen here," says WUTB VP/General Manager Alan Sawyer.

Despite not having watched it, the station brass still had some strong opinions about the way The Wire depicts the so-called Charm City.

"They show how rough and tough it is," says WBFF's Group Manager Bill Fanshawe. "It's not good for the community."

They'd rather talk about job growth, the revitalization of the waterfront, and increased education levels. "There are still pockets of problems here, but things have generally moved in the right direction," says WJZ VP/General Manager Jay Newman. "The Wire is not an accurate description of the market. In fact, it's just the opposite."

Baltimore's TV mayor Tommy Carcetti couldn't have said it any better.

Hail Mary

If you prefer to observe Super Sunday at your neighborhood church rather than your local sports bar, the coming DTV transition just might improve the picture at your next church Super Bowl party.

According to current copyright law, any screen larger than 55 inches is considered an off-limits public exhibition without the express consent of the NFL. The league exempts sports bars and restaurants, however, since their mission is to show TV sports.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) recently proposed extending the sports-bar exemption to churches, saying it was good for folks to gather together (at the shrine of the immaculate reception, as it were). But the switch to digital broadcasting may prompt the NFL to revisit the policy.

The law is based on the upper size limits of TVs "commonly found in homes," according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, though he says the league doesn't take out a tape measure and go after violators.

But as all-digital broadcasting takes over—and those HDTVs keep getting bigger and more affordable—that average screen size's upper limit is bound to go up. As a result, churches conceivably could upgrade to larger screens for Super Bowl XLIII without running afoul of the law.

"That could be," McCarthy told B&C, "and we would be willing to look at that."

Tear-Jerk TV

ABC and TV Guide magazine are encouraging viewers to cry it out with Oprah Winfrey.

To promote Oprah's Big Give, which premieres March 2 after Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as part of what ABC is calling "Feel Good Sunday," the network will insert ABC-branded tissue packets in Feb. 25 issues of TV Guide that will be mailed to subscribers in select markets.

It isn't the first time ABC and TV Guide have partnered on a marketing campaign: Last September, TV Guide subscribers got ABC-branded hospital gowns to push the new season of Grey's Anatomy. Says ABC Entertainment marketing chief Mike Benson, "It's important for us to engage viewers in a fun and unique way that is directly related to our programming."

And those tissues could come in handy. Big Give bestows hundreds of thousands of dollars on 10 contestants and challenges them to somehow change people's lives by giving it away. Celebrity judges, each of whom has non-profit interest, include TV chef Jamie Oliver, NFL star Tony Gonzalez and Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of Chris).

Paired up with a certified tear-jerker like Home Edition, we dare you not to cry.