Fast Track

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California Freeze Out?

The Alliance for Better Campaigns last week asked the nation's two largest radio groups to allow California's gubernatorial candidates to advertise on their radio stations in that state. "It is not clear whether Clear Channel and Infinity are refusing to accept political advertising because it would decrease the inventory available to commercial advertisers," wrote Meredith McGehee, president and executive director of the Campaign for Better Elections. "If so, the need to balance demands from commercial advertisers should not be used to justify a blanket ban on political advertising by state and local candidates." Infinity said it has offered each candidate a minute of airtime free and is "evaluating whether we're going to sell them additional airtime." Clear Channel did not comment.

Naming Names

Tearful KPNX(TV) Phoenix anchors told the story of the death late Wednesday of Arizona TV icon C.E. "Pep" Cooney, who spent 18 years as the station's colorful president and general manager. Cooney, 70, suffered an aortic embolism Aug. 25 and, despite surgery, never fully recovered, the station reported. He retired from the station in 1995. ...

Two former Continental Cablevision executives, David Keefe and Edward Holleran Jr., are acquiring cable systems from ailing Charter Communications for $765 million. Atlantic Broadband, the new company they run with backing from private equity firm Abry Partners, paid Charter about $3,250 per sub (or around 11 times Charter's running-rate cash flow.) The systems being sold include 51,000 subs in Miami Beach and 184,000 video customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New York and West Virginia. ...

Former Paxson President and CEO Jeff Sagansky has been named to the board of Scripps, becoming the board's 12th member. Scripps owns 10 TV stations, four cable networks, a home-shopping network and 21 newspapers.

Programming Notes

Viacom-owned CMT: Country Music Television is ditching the venerable Grand Ole Opry Live music show, one of its most popular but old-skewing programs. Starting Oct. 4, rival country-music net Great American Country will add Opry to its lineup and plans to give the show additional plays. CMT inherited it from sister net The Nashville Network (most recently renamed Spike TV). ...

ABC this fall will air the first annual "Reality Awards," honoring network and cable prime time reality and alternative series and specials. Categories will include award-show standards, such as "Best Series," but also will include awards specific to reality shows, such as "Most Memorable Moment" and "Best Twist."

South Park To Try Syndie

Comedy Central has cut a deal with Debmar Studio to syndicate South Park beginning in fall 2004, and it will fetch up to $100 million in syndication, some experts say. Most likely it will be shown in late-night slots because of its often raunchy content, although there will be light editing. Some episodes—such as the one where the word shit was uttered 162 times, for example—won't be seen at all, although that one was the series' highest-rated episode.

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