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Networks Are Asked To Drop Junk-Food Ads

To help stem rising obesity rates in kids, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wants TV networks, stations and food marketers to eliminate “junk-food” and fast-food advertising to anyone under 18.

The plea is the centerpiece of CSPI’s new “Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing,” unveiled last week. Under the guidelines, SpongeBob toys would no longer be marketed with Burger King kids meals.

CSPI, which was founded by former Ralph Nader researcher Mark Jacobson, is urging the voluntary ban in part because the group has virtually given up hope the government will regulate food marketing to kids.

The need to clamp down is pressing, said CSPI Executive Director Jacobson, because marketing aimed at children has more than doubled, to $15 billion, over the past decade. Half of that number is for food.

Trade groups for advertisers and grocers were quick to dismiss CSPI’s news.

Smut Bill Returns

Indecency foes on Capitol Hill are wasting no time putting more teeth in the FCC’s crackdown on TV sex and swearing.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, this month will reintroduce his bill boosting FCC indecency fines for stations and performers, according to a senior staffer.

Essentially the same legislation that passed the house but died in the Senate last year, the new bill would boost the maximum indecency fine from $32,500 to $500,000 per incident.

In addition, the bill would require a license-revocation hearing after three violations (the so-called “three-strikes” provision)

Finally, it would put a 180-day “shot clock” for FCC action on a complaint and eliminate the current provision that individuals cited for indecency can get a warning, but not a fine, for a first offense.

Independents Start Selling Revolution

Veteran programming executives Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein, two well-known independent distributors, are teaming up to distribute films from Revolution Studios in a deal that extends through 2006.

The domestic-distribution agreement—covering syndication, network TV and some basic cable—includes 27 films produced through December 2004 and future titles through December 2006.

There are some big-ticket titles in the package, including Blackhawk Down, Anger Management and the current Christmas With the Kranks.

The first 27 films will be featured in Revolution 1, with a second package planned for 18 months from now.

Their companies—Marcus’ Debmar Studios and Bernstein’s Mercury Entertainment—already jointly hold the syndication rights to Comedy Central hit South Park and Sci Fi Channel action hour Farscape. The film package gives the budding independent a sitcom, hour drama and movie offering, all targeted for this fall.

The two plan to combine operations by then, since that is essentially when their business will launch, but they are still working on a name for the new company—“Debmarcury” is probably a nonstarter.

The pair will be selling the movie package at the NATPE convention this month. South Park is already cleared in 90% of the country and Farscape in about 50%, says Marcus.

Correction

In the Jan. 3 edition, Money Talks misstated the terms of the Sirius Satellite Radio deal with the National Football League. The satellite radio company will pay the league $200 million over seven years.

Also, old bondholders who converted the debt into stock to bail Sirius out of a financial crisis are major shareholders, but they do not control the company.

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