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B&C Eye - Broadcasting & Cable

Study guides

Broadcasters and newspaper groups might take heart from one of the studies under way to help the FCC write new ownership rules (see page 10).

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor David Pritchard, author of an earlier study examining newspaper/broadcast crossownership in Milwaukee, Dallas and Chicago, is prepping an expanded FCC version. That report concluded that crossownership restrictions have "outlived [their] usefulness," but the FCC's Paul Gallant, who is shepherding the studies, says Pritchard's latest effort carries no preconceived notions. "His methodology seems fair and rigorous, We want to find out if it holds up over a larger sample." Indeed, Pritchard has not been afraid to take the media to task. His book Holding the Media Accountable
questions practices by news outlets.—B.M.

Paying for the NFL

ABC and Fox still need to to renew their NFL pacts with their affiliates. ABC is already in heated talks; Fox and its affils are just getting started. The original ABC deal expired in June, but it has been extended twice, and talks are now said to be at a "delicate" stage. Currently, ABC promises not to repurpose more than 25% of its prime time schedule, in return for affils' coughing up roughly $45 million in cash and relocating some commercial minutes to help pay for the NFL. This time, ABC wants more repurposing leeway to feed its new cable channel, ABC Family.

As for Fox, affiliate chairman John Tupper says the network hasn't offered specifics. Currently, stations sell some network spots locally (where they fetch more revenue in the aggregate) and transfer the proceeds (about $14 million annually) to Fox. Tupper says affils see that as a "tremendous burden" because affiliates already kick back about $50 million to Fox in a renewed inventory buy-back plan. —S.M.

Catching up?

Fox's naming a woman, Cheryl Kerns McDonald (above), to run WDAF-TV Kansas City, Mo., last month wasn't big news. Women are fairly common fixtures in the big offices at TV stations. At Fox, for instance, women also manage duopolies in Chicago, Dallas and Minneapolis and a singleton in High Point, N.C. According to a National Association of Broadcasters tally, 239 woman now run 14.1% of the 1,693 commercial and noncommercial TV stations. But that number is not quite as high as it has been. According to NAB's 2001 count, 242 women were then in charge (14.3% of 1,690 stations). On the other hand, even the smaller 2002 number represents a huge jump from 1998, when NAB first started keeping count. Then, there were only 131 woman GMs running 8.3% of 1,584 stations.—H.A.J.

TCI's tough guy

Peter Barton, who died of cancer last week, may be best known as president of Liberty Media, but he's best remembered by cable-industry executives for his years as the head of programming for the cable operator that spawned Liberty, Tele-Communications Inc.

When congressmen and regulators complained about how tough TCI CEO John Malone was on programmers, it was Barton they were really talking about. But the many network executives who also counted Barton as a close friend moaned about how difficult it was to
lock down a deal. Barton acknowledged to one network executive that TCI was so tough because "we realize that programmers have all the power." The executive recalled Barton's saying. "If we're not as tough as we can be, we'll ultimately lose pricing leverage with the networks."

—J.M.H.

Good job! You're toast

The newscast at WPXT(TV) Portland, Me., took top honors for its newscast, weathercast and sportscast, along with a handful of lesser awards, from the Maine Association of Broadcasters, earlier this month; no station did better. Trouble: WPXT no longer has a news department. In June owner Pegasus, which had earlier tried to expand its news presence, pulled the plug, saying it couldn't justify the cost. "It's certainly ironic," said MAB President Suzanne Goucher. WPXT was probably best known for breaking the story of then-candidate George W. Bush's past drunk-driving arrest. The reporter, Erin Fehlau, is now anchoring and reporting for WMUR-TV Manchester, N.H., but many other colleagues are still looking for work. Happy ending: All ex-staffers are invited to the banquet.—D.T.

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