Big nets to challenge PEJ survey


NBC, Fox and CBS parent Viacom Inc. are taking aim at a Project for
Excellence in Journalism study that suggested that the quality of newscasts on large
station groups is inferior to that of smaller groups.

The trio -- which has been pushing for allowing the network-station groups to
get bigger by raising the 35 percent cap on audience reach -- intends Thursday or
Friday to release an analysis of the study detailing what it purports to be its
inconsistencies and errors.

The PEJ is funded by the PEW Charitable Trust.

Earlier this week, ABC -- which has not been pushing for the cap increase
because it is well below the 35 percent mark (24 percent) -- felt compelled to
weigh in on the study, as well.

The network's Washington, D.C.-based executive vice president, Preston Padden, called it "ridiculous" to
suggest that network newscasts were "not of high quality," adding, "To
qualitatively make judgments about news is ill-conceived and violative of the
First Amendment."

Networks aren't the only ones unhappy with the study. Two members of the PEJ's
own design team for its periodic report cards on local broadcast journalism
resigned over not being notified that data gathered for those report cards would
be used in the study.

The departing members were Carl Gottlieb and Gary Wordlaw.

Wordlaw, a longtime news director, is general manager of Viacom's KSTW(TV)

Gottlieb, until last summer deputy director of the PEJ, is managing director of
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s News Central.