NAB sues FEC
The National Association of Broadcasters is suing the Federal Election Commission and the FCC in federal court over whether issue ads can be banned from the airwaves 30 days before primary elections and 60 days before general elections. The provisions, in which even the names of federal candidates cannot be used to pitch one side or the other of a debate, are part of the just passed campaign-finance-reform law. In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, the NAB asks the court to strike down the provisions: "The [law] not only criminalizes constitutionally protected speech broadcast on television and radio but does so in a particularly constitutionally destructive manner, barring speech on television and radio that the statute permits to be published in the print media."
Distribution is the hang-up
Plans for a gay cable network from Showtime and MTV are still up in the air. Months after the sister Viacom networks disclosed that they were seriously studying a gay channel, executives are still hung up on distribution. They're fairly convinced about programming. "There's a lot of independent films and stuff that's not very expensive," said one exec involved in the process. The big issue is what kind of support they'll get from cable operators. Because the gay net will be a pay channel, not only do they need to get it carried, but they need operators to push the network to their subscribers. "L.A.'s not the problem," said one system executive. "Georgia is the problem." The risk is adverse reaction from customers and local politicians. Expect a decision within a few weeks.—J.H.
The Cablevision-YES Network carriage war has taken some heat off ESPN. Lately, there has been less complaining about ESPN's pricing. But ESPN President George Bodenheimer (above) broached the subject himself last week: "We are worth what we charge." ESPN—already the priciest cable net at an average 72 cents per sub—plans to up its fees by as much as 20%. Under current contracts, that's what "the operators agreed to pay us," Bodenheimer says. So, for now, operators can only grit their teeth. But, as one MSO execs warns, "The contracts won't last forever."—A.R.
Carol Ann Demaret didn't know why she would be getting flowers from KTRK-TV Houston. The mother of Houston's famed "bubble boy," David Vetter, assumed it was because the station had used little of the lengthy interview she'd given regarding new developments in the treatment of severe combined immunodeficiency, which afflicted her late son. Actually, it was because that story, according to local sources, included a clip from last year's comedy Bubble Boy
that showed a boy in a bubble wiped out by a moving bus. News Director Dave Strickland issued what Demaret called "a profound apology" and said Demaret hoped those responsible wouldn't be disciplined. Strickland would not comment on possible discipline, calling it a personnel issue. Demaret, in fact, had protested the film to its producer and KTRK-TV's parent company, Disney. She was also not a fan of NBC's Seinfeld's "bubble boy" storyline, which showed a bitter, disagreeable young man in a bubble.—D.T.