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Fast Track - Broadcasting & Cable

Fast Track

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CBS to MoveOn: Get Lost

CBS defended its refusal of liberal group MoveOn.org's anti-Bush Super Bowl spot, arguing that it violates its policy against advocacy advertising. The decades-old policy is meant to keep out "undue influence on 'controversial issues of public importance,'" the net said. The ad, titled "Child's Play," depicts children laboring in factory jobs and proclaims, "Guess who is going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit." The group accuses CBS of political bias, noting that it accepted a White House anti-drug ad. CBS fired back that it is unaware of groups that advocate drug-taking "so it is hard to understand how these laudable efforts would constitute 'controversial issues.'"

Walters Trims Her Schedule

Barbara Walters is stepping down as co-anchor and chief correspondent of 20/20 after 25 years, effective in September. She'll cut back to a handful of prime time specials each year, including her widely watched pre-Oscar interview show. But she will continue to be a regular presence on The View, the daytime show her company produces for ABC. Her current contract, with more than a year to go, reportedly pays her more than $7 million a year.

People Meeter

Sen. John Breaux is a leading candidate to head the Motion Picture Association of America now that fellow Louisianan Billy Tauzin has turned down the job. Also under consideration is Vivendi Universal Entertainment's top lobbyist Matt Gerson, whose job may disappear when NBC completes acquisition of his employer. ...

Discovery Health Channel Senior VP and General Manager Bob Reid will exit his post in mid February. VP of Programming Eileen O'Neill will take over as interim general manager. ...

Tom Gutteridge is taking over as CEO of FremantleMedia North America, producer of FOX smash hit American Idol.

Fully Programmable

NBC renewed Las Vegas and American Dreams, giving both shows full 22-episode orders. But ABC is letting go of Karen Sisco, despite assuring TV critics last month that the show would return. FOX, meanwhile, has pared down its order for David E. Kelley's Boston Public to 15 episodes from a full-season commitment of 22. ...

On cable, Showtime has picked up new lesbian-themed drama The L Word for a second 13-episode season. ...

ESPN and ABC Sports and the Atlantic Coast Conference are said to be close to a new seven-year, $32 million TV deal for ACC football games, including a new conference championship game. ...

Court TV's investigative Web site TheSmokingGun.com is teaming with NBC News to provide information and reports. Creators William Bastone and Daniel Green will occasionally appear on NBC's Today show and Dateline. ...

PAX TV plans an hour special about Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ. The Making of The Passion of the Christ will air on Feb. 22 and again Feb. 24. The movie debuts Feb. 25. ...

Of Global Interest

The Golden Globe Awards on NBC pulled in an impressive 26.6 million viewers and the pre-awards show 13.1 million viewers, easily winning key demographics. HBO's made-for-TV movie Angels in America was the big TV winner with five statuettes. BBC America's The Office was the surprise winner for Best TV Comedy and Best Actor in a TV Comedy. FOX's 24 won best TV drama. CBS's Anthony LaPaglia of Without a Trace won for Best TV drama. Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker garnered her fourth statuette for Best Actress in a TV Comedy, and Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy was named Best TV Actress in a Drama. In all, HBO took home seven awards, BBC America took two, and Fox and CBS each got one. ABC and NBC were shut out, giving cable nine of 11 total TV awards.

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