B&C Eye

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Striking out

With Major League Baseball's penchant for strikes both on and off the field—a strike is now looming, and a 1994 work stoppage canceled half the season and the World Series—Fox was taking no chances when it got MLB rights, through 2006. The deal includes provisions for a rebate of some portion of the rights fee based on the number of games lost to a strike. "We aren't a charity," said a Fox spokesperson. The network also has numerous contingency programming plans in case baseball stops. The network has already had to write off $200 million of its investment in MLB rights.—K.K.

Root resurfaces

Thomas L. Root, the communications lawyer who made headlines in 1989 by crashing his plane off the Bahamas, now faces five years probation after pleading guilty last month in Franklin County Court in Ohio to charges he filed fraudulent financial documents. Root earlier gained notoriety for a radio-licensing scam that bilked investors out of millions. He was disbarred and sentenced to prison after lying to regulators and misusing investors' funds ostensibly raised to apply for and construct new FM stations allotted in 1984. But he took off on his strange solo flight as the law closed in. After he crashed, he was discovered to have suffered a mysterious gunshot wound. This time around, Root was charged with posing as an officer of Mid-Ohio Beverage, a company due $18,707 from the Ohio Division of Unclaimed Funds.—B.M.

Syndie grab

Frasier
really has left the building. Sources say Paramount has "recaptured" access shows Frasier
and Entertainment Tonight
and talker Montel
from Catamount-owned KHSL-TV in Chico-Redding, Calif (DMA 133) and sold them to ABC affiliate KRCR-TV there. Tony Kiernan, who runs KHSL-TV and all but programming at Evans Broadcasting-owned KNVN(TV), which was carrying Montel,
confirmed that his access shows are changing to Extra
and Home Improvement.
But he would not comment on his dealings with Paramount or whether more than $100,000 in delinquent payments was behind the move, as several sources contend. The cost of the shows is put at $2,500-$3,000 per week. Paramount had no comment.—D.T.

Tauzin's deadline

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin gave the entertainment industry until a meeting today to hammer out an agreement on copyright protection they all could live with. When they meet, he'll probably be disappointed; Tauzin is hearing that "affected industries are still squabbling amongst themselves," says Tauzin aide Ken Johnson. The content-provider contingent blames consumer electronics manufacturers for stonewalling, but they deny that. Content companies like Disney, Fox and Viacom want a "broadcast flag" in any device that copies digital materials; manufacturers say content providers want too much control over consumer behavior. "We may be forced," Johnson warns, "to take a harder line."—P.A.

Reversal of fortune

Reading Broadcasting last week persuaded the FCC to reverse an agency judge's decision to strip the company of its license for WTVE(TV) Reading, Pa. The seven-year dispute is the last outstanding license renewal pending under an old FCC policy that allowed challengers to compete for expiring permits. Reading was ultimately allowed to keep the license because management lived in the station's market and had more broadcast experience.
The four commissioners rejected Administrative Judge Richard Sippel's findings that Reading's president made misleading statements and was unqualified to hold a license. The commissioners did uphold Sippel's decision to allow the comparative process to go forward on grounds that the home-shopping station offers "minimal" non-entertainment programming to serve community needs. Reading had argued that the challenger, Adams Communications, had no intention of operating the stations and was trying to pressure a financial settlement.
—B.M.

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