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Broadcast-Flag Foes Defend Suit

Public Knowledge, the American Library Association and other petitioners have made their case for standing in their challenge to the FCC's decision approving the broadcast flag, which would embed a code in digital broadcasts to prevent them from being widely copied and distributed.

The majority of a three-judge panel of the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals told the petitioners they had failed to establish their right to bring the court challenge.

To establish standing, they must identify a member of any of their groups whose redistribution of TV content—for example, a news broadcast for distance-learning purposes—would be demonstrably and directly harmed by the flag. They must also explain how the FCC's decision would produce that harm.

In Tuesday's brief, Public Knowledge and the other petitioners cited quite a few, including libraries at North Carolina State, American University in Washington, UCLA and Vanderbilt. All were identified as parties whose educational-video operations would be harmed either by restrictions or by the expense of upgrading to flag-compliant equipment.

Other harmed parties cited included bloggers who would no longer be able to use broadcast clips to annotate their blogs, the marketer of an HDTV tuner card, and a user of computer-based personal video recorder-like device, MythTV.—J.E.

Ex-Cartoon Head Heads to Lifetime

In a surprise return to the network business, former Cartoon Network President Betty Cohen has been tapped as the new chief of Lifetime.

Cohen will replace Carol Black as president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services.

Cohen spent 14 years at Turner Broadcasting Systems, serving as general manager at TNT during the network's earliest days.

But her pinnacle there was founding Cartoon Network in 1992, which started with old cartoons from the Hanna-Barbera library, then gradually increased production of homegrown shows like Dexter's Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls. She stepped down in 2001, plotting out a startup media venture aimed at young girls. But it never got off the ground. In recent years, Cohen has been a consultant to networks. She starts her new job April 26.—J.M.H.

Cable Vet Goes To Tennis Net

Veteran cable and broadcast distribution and programming exec Ken Solomon has been named chairman and CEO of The Tennis Channel, effective April 1.

He replaces network co-founder David Meister, who is exiting the post he has held since the net was founded in 2003.

Solomon is fresh off being a founding top executive at a cable net himself, Fine Living, but his résumé extends over two decades and includes stints at Twentieth Television, Paramount, Buena Vista, DreamWorks and News Corp., where he helped launch FX.

The Tennis Channel, with a lineup of 60 tournaments plus news, analysis, profiles and instruction, is available to more than 50 million households. It also recently struck a distribution deal with Comcast.—J.E.

MGM Deal Could Close by Mid April

A Sony Corp.-led consortium that includes content-hungry cable giant Comcast Corp. has gotten the European Commission's OK to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., likely clearing its final hurdle to purchasing the company and its library of 4,000-plus films and 10,000-plus TV shows from Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp.

Tracinda bought MGM's assets in 1996 for $1.3 billion. The European Commission said it has given its unconditional support to the sale, which was announced Sept. 23 and got U.S. regulatory approval last December.

The deal is expected to close in mid April, contingent on financing and other closing conditions (JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse First Boston will provide up to $4.25 billion in senior debt financing).

Comcast Corp.'s participation in the nearly $5 billion bid (about $3 billion in cash and the assumption of some $2 billion in debt) confirmed its desire for content to supply its video-on-demand (VOD) service, which it sees as the strongest weapon to stave off attacks from satellite rivals.

For the nation's largest cable operator, the deal allows unprecedented access to a trove of screen hits, such as the James Bond, Rocky and Pink Panther series, and big-ticket titles, including Annie Hall, Dances With Wolves, In the Heat of the Night, Midnight Cowboy, Platoon, Rain Man, Rocky and Silence of the Lambs.—J.E.

Deadwood Lives On

HBO will saddle up for a third season of Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Western series Deadwood.

The critically acclaimed show, which began its second season March 6, is created and executive-produced by David Milch. Shooting on 12 new episodes will begin later this year for a 2006 debut. Deadwood is produced by HBO Entertainment in association with Red Board Productions and Paramount Network Television.—A.B.

TV Plugs Into Product Placement Big Time

Thanks in part to all of those American IdolCokes and Extreme MakeoverSears appliances, TV plugs were a $1.87 billion business in 2004, up 46.5% from the year before.

TV accounted for over half of all product placements.

Overall, integrated product placements in TV, movies and the “other” category were valued at $3.46 billion, up 30.5% from 2004. That increase apparently came at the expense of traditional advertising, which grew by only 7%.

That is according to a new study by research firm PQ Media, which is plugging the study as the first to characterize the “size and structure” of integrated product placement.

PQ said the growth of the market was driven by the ability of surfers and grazers to avoid traditional spots, and helped by the proliferation of the plug-happy reality genre and the emergence of cable nets like Food Network, Outdoor and The Learning Channel.

Of the $3.64 billion product-placement total, the majority (64%) were barter arrangements, where the product—say a houseful of Sears appliances or five Ford Focuses—was the payment. In a little under a third (29%), money changed hands, and in 7%, the plug was gratis (the product was simply used by the show). The percentage breakdown for TV's $1.87 billion share is about the same, with $552.3 million paid, $1.21 billion barter and $118.4 million in free plugs.—J.E.

CBS Creates New-Media Division

CBS has named Larry Kramer president of CBS Digital Media, a new division comprising its various online and new-media operations.

Kramer, who founded CBS Marketwatch (now Dow Jones' Marketwatch), will head up CBS.com, CBS Sportsline.com, CBSNews.com and UPN.com, as well as the sales operations for those sites.

Although the online operations are being aggregated under Kramer, he says they will remain in their current locations. CBS sees the new division as a way to create a more nimble, entrepreneurial operation within the company as it pursues new online and broadband-video efforts.

Kramer began his career as a journalist, including stints at the San Francisco Examiner and as financial reporter and assistant managing editor of The Washington Post.—J.E.

UPN Switches Florida Affiliates

UPN is changing its affiliation in Tallahassee, Fla., the 109th-largest TV market, from WTLS to WCTV-DT, the digital channel for Gray Television's CBS affiliate in Tallahassee. The station will be available over the air on digital broadcast and cable.

The move comes after WTLS owner Pegasus Broadcasting decided to change the station's affiliation to The WB network. On April 1, the station will sign on as WFXU and become the newest member of the WB's 100+ station group.

Typically, the WB 100+ station—an affiliate of The WB operating in small and midsize markets 100 and up—are distributed on cable. In a handful of markets, however, the 100+ stations have an over-the-air affiliation. Tallahassee will be the latest affiliation to combine over-the-air and cable carriage.

UPN's new arrangement is similar to deals the network has forged with Gray Television in Knoxville, Tenn.; Lexington, Ky.; and Augusta, Ga.—A.R.

White House VNR Policy Mixed

President George W. Bush may be defending video news releases (VNRs), but that doesn't hold for everybody in teh Executive Office of the President.

The White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) says it will no longer use video news releases to promost its anti-drug messages.

In a letter to the Government Accountability Office, ONDCP Director John Walters said that GAO's Feb. 17, 2005, guidance on VNRs made their further use by his office "impracticable."

GAO, for its part, stood up for VNRs, at least in general. In response to Walters, it pointed out that its February advisory dealt with only unidentified prepackaged news stories, adding "prepackaged news stories can be utilized without violating the law, so long as there is clear disclosure to the television viewing audience that this material was prepared by or in cooperation with the government or agency."

GAO's clarification came in response to Walters' review of a GAO report, released Thursday, on teh ONDCP's billion-dollar anti-drug media campaign. That campaign included ads, VNRs and the controversial practice of compensating programmers for working anti-drug messages into their storylines.

"We do not agree with GAO that the 'covert propaganda' prohibition applies simply because an agency's role in producing and disseminating information is undisclosed or 'covert' regardless of whether the content is 'propaganda,' wrote Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury in a memorandum to HHS.

Citing the Justice opinion, not GAO's, as its controlling legal authority, the administration issued no outright ban on the use of unidentified VNRs, although it advised caution.

The White House referred calls to OMB, which was still preparing a response at press time. —J.E.

Frank: Broadcaster of the Year

Post-Network Stations CEO Alan Frank accepted B&C's "2005 Broadcaster of the Year" award at the Television Bureau of Advertising's annual conference. Frank, who oversees six TV stations, said the industry has a unique selling point despite all the technology challenges: "We change, but we are always local."

Corrections

“From Top Dog to Underdog” (3/28, page 48) about Post-Newsweek's WJXT Jacksonville, Fla., featured a photo of the news team from Post-Newsweek's Houston channel, KPRC. The WJXT news team is pictured above.

In “A Sober Success Story” (3/28, page 60), DDB Needham Worldwide was incorrectly identified.

In “Out of the Closet and All Over TV” (3/21, page 24), the estimate of gay purchasing power was provided by Witeck-Combs Communications and Packaged Facts. B&C misattributed the source.

According to an NBC spokeswoman, NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker has been in the Today control booth two or three times in the past few months (“Good Morning Ascending,” 3/28, page 5). Also, in the February 2004 sweeps, Today trailed Good Morning America by 834,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. The 1.2 million figure referred to the total number of viewers that separated the two shows.

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