BC Beat


With John Eggerton

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Allbritton Gooses FCC on 'Neighborhood' Rule

Much to the dismay of broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission has been looking at reversing an earlier ruling that allowed TV stations to move their main studios outside their cities of license.

But it turns out the commission—under previous management and even before it loosened those community requirements—had once argued that such relocation was actually in the public interest.

Back in 1988, noting that communications had improved since the days when geographical proximity was essential to access, the FCC allowed broadcasters to move their studios outside their cities of license, though only a few miles. Some broadcasters made the moves, often in the interest of saving money.

Now, as part of a number of proposed changes to TV rules, the commission is having second thoughts, saying, "We share the concern underlying proposals that the Commission require that licensees locate their main studios within the local communities so that they are 'part of the neighborhood.'"

If the rule reversal goes through, Allbritton Communications' WJLA Washington D.C., for one, would have to vacate its main studio located just across the Potomac River, in Arlington, Va.

And for Allbritton Senior VP Jerald Fritz, the irony is too rich.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin—under the heading "What's Sauce for the Goose"—Fritz recalls that in 1980, the commission (under then-Chairman Charles Ferris) successfully petitioned Congress to move itself out of Washington D.C. (its own community of license, as it were) and just across the river to Arlington, arguing it was near public transportation and would save the taxpayers $15 million to $18 million.

But it gets better.

The FCC ultimately decided against the move, which worked out particularly well for Allbritton. That's because the building that the commission was eyeing almost 30 years ago is the same one that currently houses the WJLA studio—for now.

Summer With Crackle.com

It's almost summer, which means the cable networks are once again getting ready to kick sand in the faces of the beleaguered broadcast networks with a blast of fresh programming to greet the seasonal viewer migration.

But this summer, Sony Pictures' Crackle.com is looking to sizzle in its own right.

In a grab for viewers migrating away from linear TV altogether, the online comedy-video site is unveiling a "summer programming line-up" on June 9.

Aimed squarely at the young men who gobble up the Web's bite-sized servings of video, Crackle's line-up of short-form originals is heavy on humor, music and videogaming.

The Jace Hall Show, hosted by film, TV and videogame producer Jason "Jace" Hall, is a 13-part series that focuses on the intersection of entertainment and videogaming. In one episode, Hall (who has worked with Warner Bros. on the convergence of film and gaming) offers a sneak peak of the long-awaited game Duke Nukem Forever.

Take-Away Shows features edgy music videos of breaking acts performing stripped down versions of their songs.

Crackle's stand-up comedy series Purple Onion is returning for a second season, with clips of Greg Proops, Patton Oswalt and other comics performing at the famous San Francisco club.

And C-Spot, the site's sketch-comedy channel, will offer six new weekly series with new episodes premiering each day of the week on both Crackle and MySpace.

If you're looking for songs about the misuses of text-message lingo (Owen Benjamin Presents) or an animated series about two guinea pigs named Pee Pee and Buttercup traveling the country in a Winnebago (The Roadents), then you've got a killer summer ahead of you.