In the Loop


Inside Job

With Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, and Larry King vying for interviews, why did besieged Army Pfc. Lynndie England (infamous for holding a naked Iraqi on a leash) pick Brian Maass, investigative reporter for Denver's KCNC?


Not theirs. Her attorney's. Denver Attorney Rose Zapor remembered Maass from a story he had done on one of her clients, a man who, as fate would have it, claimed he was abused in prison. Zapor tipped off Maass that she was in the running to handle the England case. She got it and quickly arranged the interview May 9.

Naturally, he pitched for an exclusive, a negotiation he likens to "wrangling cats." But the struggle paid off—and the interview was heard around the world, thanks to an abundance of "fair use" poaching by news outlets.

But why Maass? "[Zapor] knew my work, knew I played it down the middle," he says. "I'm not going to drop in from New York today and leave tomorrow." Maass isn't leaving Fort Bragg, either. When he asked England if there were things worse than the pictures, things that "haunted her and gave her nightmares," she said yes—then quickly went off the record. Maass is trying to independently confirm the information, which he says could be "really big."

Fright Night

HDNet founder Mark Cuban has a new business tactic: fright. Cuban and Lions Gate Films are exploring a horror-themed cable network to be fed by Lions Gate's library. Internet billionaire Cuban owns a chunk of Lions Gate and invests in Warner Bros. to funnel content to his high-def cable properties, HD Net and HDNet Movies.

The scary reality: A wannabe horror channel is in the works, appropriately named Scream Channel. A plus for Cuban: It can't claim any distribution.

As for Cuban's new channel, the usually chatty owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks would say only, "We are having discussions." What most people find even scarier is that one man can amass so much dough. But who's going to do a show about that?

Lights Out?

Say your prayers. NBC confirms that the future of acclaimed cult network Trio is in jeopardy (B&C, May 10). NBC acquired Trio along with Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

The quirky pop-culture network is a hit and generates buzz among TV devotees. But NBC Television Networks President Randy Falco admits its future is up for grabs.

Trio is a critics' darling, focusing on high-end TV, such as Brilliant but Cancelled, beloved shows that got canned, televised plays, and music. NBC execs are wowed enough by the programming to promote Trio President Lauren Zalaznick, putting her in charge of both Trio and Bravo. But clever programming does not a solvent business make.

Since the bulk of Trio's distribution is tied up in a DirecTV deal ending this year, the company will have to render a decision soon.

According to Falco, Trio has "only" 18 million subscribers, although that's sizable for startups. But, for Falco, it's payback time. He has just one question: "Does it make sense economically?"

In Name Only

Despite the condemnation of the Janet Jackson antics, coupled with promises to hammer indecency on TV and radio, Congress has been all talk, no action.

Because of breaks for upcoming political conventions and the presidential election, it has about four weeks left before adjourning for the year on Oct. 1. That's not much time to remove legislation hurdles, which would hike indecency fines to $1 million.

The main obstacle is Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), who is blocking a Senate vote until a provision stopping the FCC's relaxation of media-ownership rules is removed. Expect a fight over a clause combating TV violence, too. Unless supporters of these controversial measures cave, the anti-indecency fight will fizzle.