Fast Track

Viewer videos, blogs will run on new site

CNN Enlists Citizen Journalists for Web

CNN is launching a user-submitted–content Website called CNN Exchange on Aug. 1.

Besides aggregating the news company’s various user-generated sources of content—blogs, polls, message boards—the site will allow users to upload their video and pictures of breaking news and feature stories through a section called I-Reports.

CNN will vet all incoming video, post selected entries to the site and disseminate them across its various distribution platforms, including the CNN and Headline News cable networks, and CNNRadio.

“What we’re doing with the Exchange, and I-Reports in particular, is creating a single vehicle, a simple branded environment in which people are going to be able to more consistently and easily participate in the news,” says Mitch Gelman, senior VP/executive producer for

With its streamlined uploading function, CNN Exchange represents a more ambitious commitment to citizen journalism than has existed to date. Although broadcast news divisions and cable news networks have dabbled in incorporating viewer video into newscasts for the past year, none have as sophisticated a Website.

The ad-supported site,, will have a dedicated staff and will be promoted on CNN.

CBS Pays Fine To Get Its Day in Court

CBS has paid the $550,000 indecency fine for the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, but only so it can take the decision to court.

“CBS is filing today an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit seeking to overturn the FCC’s finding that the 2004 Super Bowl half-time broadcast was legally indecent,” the network said in a statement. “A prerequisite for filing this appeal is to pay the $550,000 fine, which we are also doing today only for this procedural reason.”

CBS paid $27,500, then the FCC maximum, for each of the 20 stations cited. It made the wire transfer to the FCC Friday “under protest.”

“CBS has apologized to the American people for the inappropriate and unexpected half-time incident and immediately implemented safeguards that have governed similar broadcasts ever since,” the statement said. “However, we disagree strongly with the FCC’s conclusions and will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights.”

The court appeal came just a day after the TV industry announced a campaign to educate parents about the content control they already have. That campaign and the recently boosted indecency fines have their genesis, in part, in the fine for the Super Bowl incident.

In May, the FCC denied CBS’ challenge to the $550,000 fine. CBS’ response, essentially, was “See you in court.”

The FCC’s response Friday was essentially “Bring it on.” Said FCC spokesperson Tamara Lipper, “CBS’ continued insistence that the halftime show was not indecent demonstrates that it is out of touch with the American people. Millions of parents, as well as Congress, understand what CBS does not: Janet Jackson’s 'wardrobe malfunction’ was indeed indecent.”—John Eggerton

PBS Revisits Profanity Policy

New PBS President/CEO Paula Kerger, grilled about the indecency issue during most of her session at the Television Critics Association press tour July 26, said she and Senior Programming VP John Wilson will revisit their recently announced programmer guidelines for editing out profanity.

On May 31, PBS informed public stations that, instead of just bleeping offensive words in shows airing earlier than 10 p.m., producers would be required to digitally obscure foul language when it is clear to viewers what is being said. In addition, they would also have to bleep compound phrases containing certain words in their entirety rather than just the offending word, as in the past.

Indecent speech is protected from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The FCC has said that blurring video of naughty bits is not necessarily a defense from indecency fines but has not extended that to bleeping.

But Kerger and Wilson, referring to the FCC’s assertion that it is still taking context into account, are now indicating that they may seek to revise the strict guidelines that producers have roundly criticized.

—Jim Benson and John Eggerton

AOL To Preview Video Portal

AOL will preview a beta version of its free AOL Video portal this week. It includes more than 45 on-demand channels of free streaming content and paid download-to-own video.

The player will let users search video sources across the Internet with a new AOL Video Search function, and upload their own video from camcorders, Webcams, mobile phones or PCs through an UnCut Video function.

AOL Video’s main page will center on its new on-demand viewing service—video from broadcast and cable TV and the Web, organized into an interactive programming guide. At launch, its 45 partners include A&E, Endemol USA, MTV Networks, Procter & Gamble Productions and Turner.

AOL’s new venture is by far the most evolved video offering from an Internet portal. Over the past year, Yahoo! and Google have increased the amount of video content they offer, but AOL is the first to unite on one site free and on-demand video from an array of partners, user-generated video and a search function that extends across the Web. Content includes both clips and full episodes.

AOL’s prior video endeavors have included streaming the Live 8 concerts and launching broadband network In2TV, which streams library content from Warner Bros. shows.

—Anne Becker

Fox Sells 'Arrested’

Fox Entertainment Group has licensed all 53 episodes of cancelled Fox comedy Arrested Development to MSN, HDNet and Comcast gaming network G4 for online, high-definition and basic-cable runs, respectively.

MSN gets portal rights to air the show for three years beginning later in 2006, the first time the show will be available online. MSN Video will stream it free of charge.

As part of its three-year, exclusive HD agreement, Mark Cuban’s HDNet will begin airing the show in September. G4 gets the basic-cable rights for three years and will begin airing the show in October.

Arrested, which is distributed by Twentieth Television, ran for three years on Fox but never found a large audience despite attracting critical praise.—Ben Grossman

Soccer League Inks Deals Worth $15 Million

U.S. pro league Major League Soccer (MLS) is about to cash in on the sport’s growing popularity with a series of television deals that will bring in upwards of $15 million annually.

Soccer United Marketing (SUM), the commercial arm of MLS, is close to a multi-year agreement with Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) for a wide-ranging rights deal worth around $20 million through 2010, according to sources.

With a separate, multi-year deal with ABC/ESPN—said to be worth at least $7 million-$8 million annually—expected to be announced as soon as this week, SUM could have four national TV deals. The others are a previously announced HDNet contract (said to be worth $2 million-$3 million annually) and another deal with Univision currently in the works.

While international soccer’s World Cup has established itself as a major television property every four years, this would mark the first time the 11-year-old MLS has commanded rights fees, a huge boon for the growing league. “That would be a watershed moment for them,” says sports consultant David Carter of The Sports Business Group.

As part of the deal, FSC is expected to acquire rights to an exclusive MLS Game of the Week, a small package of MLS post-season contests, a package of U.S. men’s and women’s national team games, and additional international contests, beginning with a series this summer featuring popular Spanish team FC Barcelona.

FSC is expected to air its MLS games on Saturdays, as will HDNet. ABC/ESPN is expected to carry games on Thursday nights, with Univision to show games on Sundays.

The agreement is also expected to call for Fox to take over the rights to the Mexican Interliga soccer tournament from Univision. Fox is expected pay the $2 million annual rights fee that Univision had agreed to pay to SUM.

The SUM-Univision package currently under negotiation is said to include MLS, international soccer and a yet-to-be-announced series of games between MLS and Mexican teams. —Ben Grossman