Fast Track

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And Now, the News

Former NBC Studios President Ted Harbert has signed a two-year deal, with an option for a third, with Twentieth Century Fox TV. Through his Ted Harbert Television, he will serve as a non-writing executive producer, working with Twentieth-based writers. He already has five shows in the works: two script commitments at NBC, two pilots at CBS and a pilot at The WB. Now he also will target development to Twentieth's sister company, Fox Broadcasting. ...

Spurred by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the cable sector has upgraded plant and added services to the tune of $173 billion in gross economic output and boasts 1.1 million jobs. That's according to a glowing, just released study from Bortz Media & Sports Group for Daniels & Associates. Among the study's other findings: Basic-cable nets increased from 87 in 1992 to 308 in 2002 and boosted spending on programming more than six-fold, from $1.4 billion in 1990 to $9.2 billion in 2002. ...

Court TV will appeal a decision by New York State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich that upholds a ban on cameras in trial courts. All 50 states now allow cameras in appellate courts, but New York is one of just 11 that still ban them in trial courts. ...

FCC Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree last week suggested that a Senate proposal requiring the FCC to clarify its process for reviewing complaints about political ads is not a great idea. The measure has been pushed by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, partially motivated by the fact that his complaint about attacks ads against him is still pending at the FCC. That McCain's complaint has been pending for more than two years "indicates what can happen when you file a formal complaint," Ferree said.

Startup cable channel The Football Network
is teaming with MTV Network's Spike TV
(formerly TNN) on two new football-themed shows. TFN, planning to launch this fall, will produce two half-hour shows for Spike. Football 101 will be a magazine show; Fantasy Football 2003 will offer news and information for fantasy-football players. The shows will air first on Spike, then replay on TFN. The two networks team up to sell advertising.

Can Practice
Make Pretty Good?

ABC's decision to renew David E. Kelley's The Practice at about half its reported $7 million-per-episode license fee forced him to choose between two options: bringing the whole cast back at reduced salaries or keeping some and letting others go. Said Kelley at the critics' press tour in Hollywood, "I chose the latter because the economic realities coincided with the creative needs of the show. I look at this as a challenge, a new beginning. We can't count on our viewing constituency. We have to give them a reason to come back."

And yes, Sharon Stone is signed on for four or five episodes, and former lead Dylan McDermott will return for four. But James Spader is now the new star of the show.

Clarification

A story on page 20 of the July 14 edition suggested that Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said Dr. Laura Schlessinger's television talk show failed in 2001 because of derogatory remarks she made about gays. In fact, he said an anti-Schlessinger campaign by gay activists speeded the show's cancellation; she maintains she has never made anti-gay comments. In the same article, her last name was misspelled.

Writers Return to The Aging Frasier

With the show having faltered artistically last season and facing strong competition from ABC's silent hit, According to Jim, veteran Frasier scriptwriters Christopher Lloyd, Joe Keenan and Jeffrey Richman will rejoin the show as executive producers, and Rob Greenberg will rejoin as creative consultant for the 11th and likely last season of the much honored NBC sitcom.

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