Fast Track

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Rainbow Media Teams Up With Weinsteins

Rainbow Media will team with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, formerly of Miramax, to build a new film library.

Rainbow, which owns cable nets AMC, IFC, WE: Women’s Entertainment and Fuse, has signed a multiyear deal with The Weinstein Co., trading home-video rights to its product in exchange for the company’s theatrical expertise.

The two companies will jointly own a film library with titles chosen by the Weinsteins and funded by Rainbow. The two will split the distribution profits, with an eye toward TV, home video and international distribution.

Not surprisingly, Rainbow networks will have a first option on the domestic TV rights to the debuts of the films. For its part, The Weinstein Co. now gets exclusive home-video rights to films from Rainbow’s IFC Films theatrical production arm (plus international theatrical sales) as well as to all the original series and specials on all its cable nets.—J.E.

CBS Fires Reporter for On-Air F-Word

CBS confirms that WCBS New York reporter Arthur Chi’en was fired Thursday after his f-word response to hecklers made it on to the air during a 6 a.m. broadcast.

“WCBS-TV apologizes for the use of inappropriate language during our 6 a.m. broadcast. We deeply regret the incident,” the station said in a statement.

The company has a zero-tolerance policy on so-called broadcast indecency post Janet Jackson—stations cannot air sexual content or profanity between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. per FCC rules, but Viacom is one of several companies to also pledge to self-police.

Chi’en was reporting from a subway station when two men began chanting “Opie and Anthony!” and shot the finger to the camera.

Ironically, Opie and Anthony were the shock jocks employed by CBS parent Viacom who were fired for indecency violations after a “Sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral” on-air contest drew flack from Washington and elsewhere.

As his report ended, Chi’en shouted at the men: “What the f----is your problem?” The comment made it onto the air. Chi’en had been with the station since December 2003, when he joined from WFXT Boston.—J.E.

Cartoon Raises Bar On Kids TV

Cartoon Network will put parent-targeted subtitles, dubbed “Mommy Bars,” on its new Tickle U preschool block of shows as part of a media curriculum pitching humor as an aid to childhood development.

Armed with a Harris Poll research finding that the vast majority of parents think humor is essential to their kids’ quality of life and development, cable network Cartoon will launch the block Aug. 22; it will air weekdays, 9-11 a.m.

Cartoon bills the subtitles as aids to co-viewing by parents and children, but in addition to providing “research on humor and preschoolers packaged as fun commentary for the adults,” the subtitles will also provide information on “cues for show content and length,” so those co-viewing moms will know how much time they have to grab a cup of coffee, put in a load of laundry or do something other than co-view.

A network spokesman said Cartoon will submit the block as meeting FCC standards for kid-friendly (educational/informational) programming. Tickle U shows include Peppa Pig, Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto! and baby-boomer classic Gerald McBoing Boing.—J.E.

Sinclair Divvies Up WEMT

Sinclair Broadcast Group said it will sell the broadcast license and physical assets of its WEMT in the Virginia/Tennessee Tri-Cities market to two different buyers.

Sinclair bought the station in July 1998 as part of a group deal. BlueStone Television, which already owns Tri-Cities station WCYB, agreed to pay $5.6 million for the station facilities and the transmitter, but it can’t own a duopoly in the market, either. So, Aurora Broadcasting will pay Sinclair $1.4 million for the license, pending FCC approval of the transfer, then program the station, with BlueStone providing the non-programming related services—including sales, operations and administration.

The sale of WEMT is part of Sinclair’s strategy of selling stations in markets where the company has no opportunity to operate two-station duopolies. —B.M.

Kid-Friendly Bug a No-show for Now

It looks as though it will now be at least midsummer before broadcasters are required to put the “educational/informational” (EI) bug on all their FCC-friendly kids shows.

Although the FCC did make that bug a requirement in its updated kids rules adopted last November, it won’t become effective until the Office of Management and Budget signs off on them.

The bug, an FCC stamp of approval of sorts, must air on-screen through the entirety of a show for broadcasters to get credit toward their three-hour weekly minimum.

A source says the commission has yet to hear back from OMB, which, thanks to the Paperwork Reduction Act, must approve any new regs qualifying as an information-collection obligation.—J.E.

A&E Taps New GM

A&E upped Bob DeBitetto to executive VP/GM, A&E Network, filling a position vacated by former A&E president Abbe Raven. She took over Nick Davatzes’ slot as president/CEO, A&E Television Networks, last month. He is now CEO emeritus.

DeBitetto has worked at the network since Jan. 2003, first as SVP and then executive VP of programming. Prior to joining the network, DeBitetto worked at Turner for seven years in a variety of roles, including TNT president of original programming.—A.B.

ESPN Deportes Unveils New Moves

Spanish-language sports network ESPNDeportes announced three initiatives at its upfront: new show El Reportero, monthly magazine La Revista and the launch of a full-time national radio network.

El Reportero, a Spanish-language version of Dream Job, will visit Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Dallas and Chicago for one lucky winner who will report on SportsCenter and World Cup games in Germany in 2006. ESPN Deportes: La Revista, published and distributed in association with ESPN Inc. and publishing company Televisa Editorial, features original material in Spanish and translated information from its English-language counterpart. ABC Radio Networks and Lotus Communications will join to launch ESPN Deportes Radio full-time in September, with KWKW(AM) Los Angeles as the flagship. Content includes Mexican soccer and Spanish-language broadcasts of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, League Championship Series and World Series. Affiliates are secured in Las Vegas and Reno;Tucson, Ariz.; and Fresno, Bakersfield, and Pomona, Calif., with more to be announced later. —M.M.C.

Sony Sells Da Vinci

Sony Pictures Television will sell the national-ad time in syndicated drama Da Vinci’s Inquest. The Canadian procedural crime drama is being distributed by Program Partners.

According to Sony, the show has been sold on a barter basis (stations pay for it in ad inventory) for fall 2005 in over 80% of the U.S., including CBS O&Os in top markets New York, Los Angeles,Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit and Miami.

The show would seem a natural fit for CBS, where the granddaddy of procedural crime dramas, CSI, has been fruitful and multiplied. Da Vinci’s Inquest, in its seventh year, is about “charismatic, controversial and mercurial coroner” Dominic Da Vinci.—J.E.

Frank Gorshin Dies

Frank Gorshin, 72, best known as the Riddler on the TV series Batman, died of cancer May 17 at Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif.

Gorshin, an actor, singer and impressionist whose credits included TV, films and Broadway, left an indelible impression as the cackling, body-suited villain in the popular ABC series of the mid 1960s. He was in heady company, joining some acting giants, including Art Carney, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and Vincent Price, who put tongues firmly in cheek to play along with the campy series.

Appropriately, Gorshin went out on top. He made a cameo appearance on Thursday night’s season-ending episode of TV’s top scripted series, CBS’ CSI.—J.E.

MTV Promotes Newsies

MTV News named Robert Mancini to the newly created position of editorial director, MTV News, and Benjamin Wagner to executive producer, MTV News Online. Both will still be based in New York.

Mancini will oversee all editorial content produced by MTV News. He’ll decide areas of coverage, set daily lineups, assign stories and guide editors. He joined MTV News in 1996 as MTV News Online’s first writer. Wagner will manage production on MTV News Online’s digital destinations, and MTV Overdrive. He joined MTV News Online in 1996 as a producer.—A.B.

Mapes, Rather Reunite at Peabodys

Mary Mapes, the producer of the 60 Minutes Wednesday “Abuse at Abu Ghraib” report, was on hand as the 64th Annual Peabody Awards were officially handed out at a New York luncheon May 16 and so was Dan Rather. CBS cancelled the show last week.

Neither she nor Rather spoke publicly about the later-discredited 60 Minutes II report about President Bush’s National Guard record that got Mapes and others fired, and led to Rather’s accelerated departure from anchoring The CBS Evening News.

Rather thanked producers and behind-the-scenes folks at CBS News for the Abu Ghraib effort, but never mentioned CBS News President Andrew Heyward. After the ceremony, Mapes, who is writing a book, said she never believed CBS News investigated whether the disputed facts behind the National Guard story were, in fact, true. “They made a corporate decision, not a journalistic one,” she said. She also defended the suspect documents, which many said were phonies because they produced a small “th” typically used with dates (like 30th) that experts say typewriters of the Vietnam War era were incapable of producing. “We know it was possible because we have other documents” from the same era, she said.

Marlene Sanders, former news correspondent and chair of the Peabody Awards Board, made pointed reference to coverage of the war in Iraq, which until this year had not been noted by Peabody.

“I see NPR is under attack for its coverage of Iraq” she said, referring to recent criticism of public broadcasting. “Coincidentally, they’re getting an award for it.”—Staff

Barton’s Draft Bill Sets 2008 Deadline

The government would reclaim TV stations’ old analog channels Dec. 31, 2008, under draft legislation that House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton plans to unveil Monday. Some key details leaked Friday to industry lobbyists following the Barton’s negotiations with other lawmakers.

The Texas Republican had previously insisted that he favored sticking to the original Dec. 31, 2006, target deadline set by Congress in 1997, but that date was widely regarded as difficult to meet.

Barton would like to have as wide a consensus as possible over the bill. The thorniest problem for Barton is getting agreement on the size of a government subsidy that would defray costs for consumers who buy converter boxes to keep their analog sets working; the draft contains no provision for a subsidy. The Commerce Committee plans a hearing on the draft Thursday.—B.M.

Clarification

In this week’s syndication story (“Cable’s Off-Net Bounty,” page 9), B&C reports sources said Buena Vista has received “lackluster offers” for Scrubs. A Buena Vista representative says this is incorrect and reports the syndicator has received multiple offers on Scrubs.

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