B&C Eye


Carving up cable

Digital must-carry by Thanksgiving? Could happen. In a letter to Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the agency will soon resolve the bitter and seemingly endless debate over carriage of TV stations' digital signals via cable. Jonathan Cody, a Powell aide, said must-carry rules should be ready for an FCC vote this fall. "We are moving pretty aggressively on this stuff."

No word yet of the extent of must-carry rights Powell wants, but some broadcast attorneys and lobbyists hope the rules would require MSOs to carry each digital station's full 6 MHz signal, even if it contains multiple program services and an electronic program guide. They were less certain whether the rules would include other interactive and data services in the requirement. Cable operators want to stop at carrying anything other than a station's main programming channel and say broadcasters have rights to full 6 MHz only when used for true high-definition TV.—B.M.

Here comes the judge

Judge Joe Brown
should send new Viacom stations' Dennis Swanson a good bottle of Champagne. A year ago, when Swanson was still GM at WNBC(TV) New York, he struck a deal with Paramount Domestic Television to grab the judge show from its noontime slot on rival Fox's WNYW(TV) and, starting today (Aug. 19), give it a double run on WNBC at 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Now at Viacom, Swanson is expanding Brown's reach in Los Angeles, where Viacom owns KCBS-TV and KCAL(TV). Swanson and KCBS-TV GM Don Corsini worked a deal that keeps Judge Joe Brown
airing at 8:30 a.m. on KCAL and then gives it another great exposure—at 3 p.m.—on KCBS-TV beginning Sept. 3. "For us to get those kinds of time periods gives the show awareness in the biggest markets," crows Paramount's John Nogawski. "My friend Dennis Swanson has come through for us twice in a row."—P.J.B.

Out of the closet

Former Cheers
and Veronica's Closet
star Kirstie Alley and Buena Vista Television are reportedly developing a first-run show, which, if it goes forward, would probably debut in fall 2003. No official comment from Buena Vista, although sources there did confirm the two sides had been talking for some time. There were conflicting reports on whether the deal had actually been signed. Holly Jacobs, executive vice president, development for Buena Vista, couldn't be reached. Details about the show are sketchy, but one source says one idea kicking around is to shoot Alley and her daily guests at her home in Southern California.—S.M.

Sign in, please

It's not smart to potentially embarrass the person who signs your paycheck, but CNBC
Power Lunch duo Bill Griffeth and Michelle Caruso-Cabrera did it on Aug. 14, the deadline for CEOs to sign off on the veracity of their earnings statements. They got a handwriting analyst, Curt Baggett, to size up the scribbles of titans of commerce, including General Electric Chairman Jeffrey Immelt. (GE, of course, owns CNBC). A "genius" and "brilliant," Baggett said, at first. Then he added: "He's a loner, and he's a control freak, and he wants to do the job all by himself. He's very defiant, too. If someone tries to force him to do something he didn't want to do, he'd do just the opposite, or try to. He's a very interesting fellow. Super analytical."

But, Reed, will AL run in 2004?

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, Democrat and famous friend of Al Gore, still likes to tweak Republicans when he gets the chance. Last week, Hundt called the FCC's new rule requiring TV makers to include digital tuners in all new sets by 2007 the "Powell tax" and said, at "$100 a set, it is the biggest tax ever imposed by the FCC that benefits no one."—P.A.