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Indecency Fines Moving Fast

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman
of the Senate Commerce Committee vows that his side of Congress won't block
anti-indecency legislation as it did last year.

“We're under substantial pressure from so many people to do
something about it,” he told reporters shortly after the
House Commerce Committee overwhelmingly passed
a bill hiking fines up to $500,000 for indecent broadcasts during hours when
children are likely to be watching. He predicted a Senate version would pass
“fairly quickly” but cautioned that Senate leaders haven't told him when
there will be time for a full Senate vote.

The House Commerce Committee approved 46-2 a bill similar to the
anti-indecency measure that passed last session. The bill bogged down in the
Senate when a few lawmakers insisted on attaching measures attacking media
consolidation.

The current House bill raises maximum fines from $32,500 to $500,000
for stations and from $11,000 to $500,000 for performers. It also requires the
FCC to rule on indecency complaints faster,
gives the FCC power to revoke violators' station licenses, and encourages
broadcasters to reinstate a family hour and a voluntary code of conduct. The
Senate version has been introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback
(R-Kan.).

Two amendments that would have shielded individual performers from
higher penalties were defeated.

Broadcaster of the Year

Alan Frank, president/CEO of
Post-Newsweek Stations, is B&C's 2005 Broadcaster of the Year. He'll receive his award at the
Television Bureau of Advertising's Marketing
Conference on March 31 at New York's Javits Convention
Center.

A consummate broadcaster, the Pittsburgh native made his mark at
WDIV Detroit, where he was named general
manager in 1988, and made it one of NBC's
most powerful affiliates. Twelve years later, he was named president of
Post-Newsweek stations, which owns a half dozen major-market stations.

As chairman of the National Affiliated Stations
Alliance
(NASA), he's a leader of the foes of media consolidation,
fighting earlier FCC attempts to raise the
station-ownership cap and battling with other affiliates for better treatment
from ABC, CBS, NBC and
Fox. He is also chairman of the TVB board and
executive committee of the National Association of
Broadcasters.

At the TVB Conference, which will once again be held in conjunction
with the New York International Auto Show, Frank will also participate on a
panel with the three previous winners of B&C's
Broadcaster of the Year Award: David Barrett,
president/CEO, Hearst-Argyle Television, (2004 winner), who
will appear via videotape; Dennis FitzSimons,
chairman, Tribune Co. (2003); and Dennis
Swanson
, EVP/COO, Viacom Television Stations
Group
, the first B&C honoree, in 2002.
B&C Editor in Chief J. Max
Robins
will moderate.

Agenda and registration information for the TVB conference, which
usually sells out quickly, is available at
www.tvb.org.

Noth Returns to 'Law & Order'

Chris Noth, most recently
Sex and the City's “Mr. Big,” will
return to his old beat, Law & Order,
reprising the role of Det. Mike Logan, this time as a regular on spinoff
L&O: Criminal Intent.

Noth will split the lead duties with star Vincent D'Onofrio, each starring in 11 episodes.

Law & Order creator Dick Wolf
says D'Onofrio needed some help, citing the “grueling pace” of being a
single lead in an hour drama.

His erratic behavior—on the set, allegedly starting fist
fights—has been reported for several months, particularly in the
New York Post's Page Six column, and had
NBC Universal executives considering Noth as an emergency backup in the
lead-detective role since at least November.

Once Again, Spectrum Fees Cited in Federal Budget

Under the fiscal 2006 budget released last week by the
Bush administration, TV stations that have not
returned their analog channels would pay a combined total of up to $500 million
in 2007 and again in 2008.

No fees would be due in 2006.

The fee would drop to $480 million in 2009 and to $450 million in
2010. Specifics of how the fee obligations would be spread among individual
stations were not spelled out.

Since the Clinton administration,
White House budgets have contained some form of spectrum fee to compensate
taxpayers for the right to broadcast on stations obtained for free.
NAB lobbyists have always managed to get the
fees eliminated.

CNBC Picks New President, Chairman

CNBC has named Mark Hoffman president. He replaces current
President/CEO Pamela Thomas-Graham, who
becomes chairman of the network. Hoffman leaves his post as president/GM of
NBC Universal-owned WVIT New Britain, Conn., a job he has held since
September 2001.

Hoffman was previously with CNBC, serving as executive producer,
VP/managing editor and VP/managing editor, business development. He will be
responsible for day-to-day operations, programming and technology.

Thomas-Graham will oversee strategic planning and explore possible
brand extensions for CNBC. She has served as president/CEO of CNBC since July
2001 and was previously president/CEO of NBC.com.

Shall We Danza? BVT Says Yes

Buena Vista Television has renewed rookie talker
The Tony Danza Show for a
second season.

The show has been renewed in 115 markets and over 80% of the country
for the 2005-06 season. The talker has also been upgraded in several markets,
most importantly in No. 2 market Los Angeles, where it moves up from overnight
to a daytime clearance on one of Viacom's two stations, either
KCBS or KCAL.
Season-to-date, the show is averaging a 1.3 rating, which ranks it No. 3 among
freshman first-run strips behind Entertainment
Tonight
spinoff Insider and talker
The Jane Pauley
Show.

CBS' George Herman Dies at 85

George Herman, 85, the longtime
Face the Nation moderator
who spent 43 years covering politics and international affairs for
CBS News, died Tuesday of heart failure
following a long illness, according to the network.

Herman was the first reporter to broadcast a story about the break-in
at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972 and co-anchored
coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings. He appeared on TV for the first time
during the 1948 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, the first to be
televised. He left CBS News in 1987. Herman is survived by his wife of 50
years, Patricia, three sons and six grandchildren.

TLC Taps Abraham

TLC has named David Abraham EVP/GM of the network. Currently GM of
Discovery Networks UK, he replaces Roger Marmet, who resigned Jan. 27. Abraham,
41, has managed Discovery's nine UK channels since 2001. In the coming
months, he will relocate to the company's U.S. headquarters in Silver Spring,
Md., to oversee TLC's programming, production, development and
operations.

Dolan Picks Up Voom Assets

Voom may be crippled, but some of its
homegrown networks may live on. Cablevision
Chairman Chuck Dolan cut a deal to buy the
failing DBS service's assets from the company, including a cluster of HD
movie and other channels that he started to feed the service.
EchoStar is buying Voom's main satellite,
but a Dolan company will buy the 21 original HD channels (primarily showing
older movies) and related licenses. Terms were not disclosed.

A 10th for '7th'

The WB is picking up its
longest-running show, drama 7th
Heaven
, for a 10th season. That early pickup, says WB
Entertainment President David Janollari, will
also make it the longest-running family drama in TV history, topping the nine
seasons for Little House on the
Prairie
(NBC) and The Waltons (CBS).

The series, from Aaron Spelling,
debuted on the network in 1996.

Correction

Producer Rich Hull was incorrectly identified in an article about the
NAACP Image Awards (2/7, page 22).

Clarification

Ratings for the Friends Monday-Friday syndicated
run for the weeks of 1/17-23 and 1/24-30 are being reprocessed by Nielsen,
according to Warner Bros. Domestic Television. The sitcom didn't appear on
the list of rated shows that is the basis for the Syndication Ratings table in
the Feb. 7 issue and this one (page 11).

FCC Crushes Stations' DTV Carriage Plans

Broadcasters vowed to take their fight to Congress and the courts last
week after the FCC voted 4-1 to reject TV
stations' demand for greatly expanded cable carriage rights for their digital
channels.

As expected, the FCC upheld its 2001 ruling that stations will be
guaranteed carriage of only one “primary” channel. Unless they can convince
either lawmakers or judges that the FCC was wrong, stations will have to
negotiate with their local operators to win space on cable lineups for the
additional channels that digital technology allows them to offer.

By a unanimous vote, the commission also rejected broadcasters'
added demand that cable systems carry both their old analog signals and the new
digital versions while they are transitioning to all-digital operation.

“In Washington, there are no final victories and no final
defeats,” says Eddie Fritts, president of the
National Association of Broadcasters. “NAB
will be working to overturn today's anti-consumer FCC decision in both the
courts and Congress.”

The vote had another bad outcome for TV stations: Commissioners also
committed themselves to resolving by year-end whether to saddle broadcasters
with additional public-interest obligations or not. Congress ordered the FCC to
examine whether broadcasters should be required to offer more news, kids
programming or locally produced shows in return for the DTV spectrum, but the
review has long been on the backburner.

Regarding multicasting, the FCC said broadcasters failed to
demonstrate that the public benefit would outweigh harm to cable operators.
Even on the 500-channel lineup that cable operators can offer their digital
subscribers, some might be forced to drop lower-rated cable nets like
CSPAN3 to make room for what would be hundreds
of new broadcast programming streams in each market.

Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy said
broadcasters should take their case to lawmakers, who can eliminate ambiguity
over carriage rights when Congress rewrites the Telecommunications Act over the
next year.

NBC Universal Attacks Autism

Autism will be the subject of a multichannel programming effort from
the NBC News networks the week of Feb. 21. The
disorder, which currently affects about 1.77 million Americans, will be covered
in reports on Today and
Nightly News With Brian
Williams
, in addition to coverage on
CNBC, MSNBC,
NBC's O&Os, Telemundo and
MSNBC.com. According to NBC, the Centers for
Disease Control is announcing that autism is the “fastest-growing serious
developmental disability in the United States.”

Today will feature weekly educational reports,
culminating in a Feb. 25 segment with NBC
Universal
Chairman/CEO Bob Wright and his
wife, who will discuss their grandson's diagnosis with the disorder and
launch the Autism Speaks foundation.

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