Fast Track - Broadcasting & Cable

Fast Track

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Court Sets Ownership Date

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia has set aside Monday, Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. to hear challenges to the FCC's media-ownership rules. That locale survived a challenge by dereg forces who wanted the appeal heard in what they see as the more consolidation-friendly Washington circuit.

For those itchin' to file petitions, the drill goes like this: Anybody thinking the rules are "too expansive" (the court clarifies that as anti-deregulatory) should file their petitions by noon Oct. 21. Anybody thinking the rules are too restrictive ("deregulatory petitioners") has to file by Nov. 4. It gets a lot more complicated from that point. Contact a lawyer.

Just Lie There and Watch It

In a new biopic, Showtime is looking to attract some eyeballs and explore the Jayson Blair scandal that rocked The New York Times. Showtime is calling The Jayson Blair Project a dark comedy that will trace his rise and fall as a reporter and his motivation for fabricating stories. The film will be based on articles by former Newsweek writer Seth Mnookin, who is writing a book about the Times.

Fully Programmable

The WB will preempt its regular Friday-night sitcom lineup Oct. 24 in favor of its first-ever original Halloween lineup, featuring A Scooby Doo Halloween, Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special and The WB's Outrageous Halloween Outtakes. Anthony Anderson, of The WB's All About the Andersons, will host the outtake special at 9 p.m. ET. …

In an attempt to get more viewer sampling for new Thursday-night entry Threat Matrix, ABC double-ran it last Monday and will do so again tonight. ABC hopes the show will get a viewer boost from people tuning in early to watch Monday Night Football. Primetime Monday will return to that spot on the schedule Oct. 27, when Meredith Vieira hosts an hour special episode, "Fat Like Me." …

Discovery Networks U.S. is preparing to relaunch the Health Network, which it acquired from Fox Cable in 2001. Beginning Jan. 1, it will be FitTV, a fitness channel with exercise and health shows. Carole Tomko, most recently VP of production for Animal Planet, will be the network's first GM. The network's name should be familiar. Fox bought America's Health Network in the late '90s and rolled it into its own FitTV to create Health Network. When it relaunches, FitTV will count about 30 million subs. ...

Freedom Still Is

Freedom Communications last week struck a deal to recapitalize the company with venture-capital firms Blackstone Communications Partners and Providence Equity Partners. The move will keep the family-controlled broadcaster/publisher (of the Orange County Register, among others) in the hands of the Hoiles family, while buying out family members who want to cash in their shares. Freedom rejected several offers from other media companies to buy it outright, including a joint bid from Gannett and MediaNews Group.

NBC, Watchdogs Follow the Money

NBC News once again will join with campaign-watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics to track campaign-finance issues. It's the third time they've paired. Reports will show up on NBC News shows, including Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and Today, and on MSNBC and the network Web site.

Correction

The Oct.13 column by shamed ex-Chicagoan and Broadcasting & Cable Editor P.J. Bednarski referred to Mike Ditka as a former linebacker on the Chicago Bears. As any Chicago schoolkid could tell you, he was a tight end. Dick Butkus was the famed Bears linebacker.

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