Ex-Viacom President Frank Biondi takes some big hits in Sumner Redstone's upcoming autobiography, A Passion to Win. Media executives were aghast when Redstone fired widely respected Biondi in 1995, because the pair had seemed to operate so well together. In Redstone's take, Biondi "was not a negotiator" and "consistently appeared to resent any idea that had not originated with him." The deal-breaker came when Biondi supposedly balked at a $1.2 billion pact to license movies and stalked out of a meeting. "We sat there in disbelief," Redstone writes. Biondi has a much different tale of the rift.
As for other media players, Rupert Murdoch is "not a great negotiator, he overpaid for everything." John Malone is "one of the smartest men" in media but avaricious. Ted Turner doesn't "possess the killer instinct that was so present in Malone. (That's a compliment to Turner.)"—J.M.H.
Friends in high places
Warner Bros. has been searching for Seinfeld-sized license fees for the second cycle of Friends. Apparently, though, in today's economic climate, it's rough going. Sources say Warner Bros. was asking for $50,000 per week in San Diego. The incumbent, Tribune-owned KSWB-TV, passed, and Fox affiliate XETV-TV is said to have landed the popular off-NBC sitcom for about $25,000 a week. Chuck Dunning, XETV-TV's general sales manager, declined comment on the price but called it "a fair deal. We think we overpaid. They think they charged too little." Warner Bros. also declined comment. Since Friends' initial cycle was in a Tribune group contract, it's tough to say what that market was worth the first time out.—S.A.
Colorless fall sked?
Expect another blast from minority groups angry over the lack of color on color television. Minority advocacy groups plan to issue a report card on diversity; the nets earlier pledged to improve to avoid an advertising boycott. The fall schedule laid out last week doesn't impress Alex Nogales, chairman of the National Hispanic Media Coaltion. Native American Lou Diamond Phillips (above, right) stars in CBS' Wolf Lake (and the Wayans family, as always, is on prime time), but "there's little diversity; it's very incremental at all of the networks," he said. "Is this what we took all that time to negotiate? At this rate we may as well go back to 1950."
When the House begins its debate on campaign-finance reform, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) plans to sponsor an amendment that would require broadcasters to give politicians their lowest ad rate. A similar measure passed earlier this year in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.).
Last week, Slaughter invited campaign-finance-reform advocate Paul Taylor, executive director of the Alliance for Better Campaigns, and the FCC's expert on political broadcasting rules, Bobby Baker, to brief about 20 House staffers on the issue. Both Taylor and Baker stressed that they were invited separately, with Taylor as an advocate and Baker strictly as an expert on political-broadcasting rules, not as a representative of the FCC.
Although the measure has its supporters in the House, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, isn't one of them. Tauzin has claimed jurisdiction over the Torricelli amendment and plans to hold hearings on it this summer.
Taylor says he's not aware of much opposition to the bill, "other than from the broadcasters," but concedes that "the industry has a good track record of protecting itself from these types of amendments over the years."—P.A.