When they danced
No one died at last week's CBS affiliates meeting, but it reminded us that, not too long ago, these little wingdings were something like, well, harmonious. Take, for example, the 1982 CBS affiliates meeting, when, as the old Broadcasting magazine pointed out, the big moment, entertainment-wise, was a chorus-line dance number by, get this, "wives of affiliates and network executives" (pictured). They got a standing ovation, we reported, blithely unaware that, less than 20 years later, such network/affiliate chuminess—not to mention such blatant chauvinism—would be impossible to imagine.
Back then, CBS had caterers who, between courses, served affiliates and other guests sherbet in ice-sculpted bowls that looked like decorative swans—1,200 of those, as a matter of fact. Things seemed easier, and why not? Things were good, and cable was, comparatively, an infant. Affiliates nodded in total agreement when Gene Jankowski, then-president of the CBS broadcast group, said he doubted advertisers would ever fall for cable television, which confused the potential audience with actual eyeballs. "I suspect a major re-evaluation of cable is about to take place," Jankowski told the gang. He got that right.
Praise the messenger
Veteran Miami newsman Ike Seamans had more than 100 messages waiting for him Friday, largely in praise of a story he had done the night before. A good response? Well, yes, and no. The WTVJ(TV) story he reported concerned a great big problem: what's wrong with TV news.
Seamans said that the story grew from his experiences on panels discussing journalism. "They were suddenly more contentious, more bitter, than they'd ever been. Normally, people kill the messenger for bringing bad news. Now we're getting killed for not bringing the news they want." The prescription? Seamans' findings indicate that people want a broad range of news—including crime, accidents and even car chases—but with a better sense of proportion and relevance.
Is this her final answer? Sources say Rosie ("I'm leaving and I'm not kidding") O'Donnell is looking to host the possible syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? when and if O'Donnell gives up her Warner Bros. talk show. Rosie is a a huge Millionaire fan and would arguably be a good fit for a stripped version of Millionaire, a project still in the speculation phase for Buena Vista Television.
An O'Donnell spokesperson admits only that she has had conversations about doing another TV show with Millionaire executive producer Michael Davies. Rosie regularly talks about leaving her daytime chat show when the contract expires after 2002, and insiders say a syndicated Millionaire would debut no earlier than that. Buena Vista would not comment.
Bush's telcom style
With the new FCC almost settled in (with the exception of Kevin Martin, who waits out resolution of a paperwork glitch), the Bush White House can take credit for getting that job done in record time. The White House seems to be willing to let the FCC be its central office for all things telcom and has been unconcerned about setting up any kind of administration-based telcom shop. That's a huge difference from the Clinton-Gore White House, where telcom was a top priority.
Martin was filling a temporary slot in the National Economic Council while he worked on FCC appointments; now John Ackerly is doing that job, as special assistant to NEC Director Larry Lindsey. Ackerly covers commerce and technology, and industry sources say they meet with him when they need to talk to an administration official. Wiley, Rein and Fielding attorney Nancy Victory supposedly will be nominated to head the National Information and Telecommunications Administration. "Right now, they are just trying to get confirmations through and scratching where it itches," said one industry source.