In the Loop - Broadcasting & Cable

In the Loop

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The Paramount Shuffle

As the former president of two TV studios, Les Moonves found the stagnation at Paramount Television especially aggravating. "Paramount hasn't had a grand-slam home run since Frasier," Moonves says. "They need some." Frasier
premiered in 1993, the same year Paramount Television Productions Garry Hart was put in charge of the studio's prime time TV operations.

No more. Now that Viacom Co-COO Moonves heads both the TV studio and CBS network, he's swinging the ax—and it hit Hart. The former Universal Television exec fell as part of a management shuffle that knits CBS and Paramount Television together. The move puts in a team that has worked with Moonves since his days running Lorimar Television and Warner Bros. Television.

Replacing Hart is Dave Stapf, CBS's head of current programming and longtime Moonves lieutenant. Nina Tassler moves from head of CBS drama development to president of CBS Entertainment.

CBS Entertainment President Nancy Tellem is the point person in charge of both the network and CBS Productions, rechristened the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group.

The most dramatic changes will be felt at Paramount Television. The problems there are similar to those at Paramount's movie division. Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone and ex-President Mel Karmazin starved the unit for cash, sending ex-Paramount chief Jon Dolgen searching for modestly budgeted hits rather than blockbusters.

Moonves, however, doesn't think Paramount's problems are purely financial. He blames "a lack of aggressiveness about the television business. You're playing the game to get Raymond
and Survivor." But in the five years CBS and Paramount have been together, it has failed to deliver. Moonves says he always felt like just another buyer, which doesn't work when ABC, Fox and NBC all have sibling TV studios. "You need a studio and network working hand in hand. A studio's first port of call has to be the network. I need a place that's serving CBS."

Paris in France?

Imagine the laughs if ditzy Simple Life
star Paris Hilton hit Paris. She says she'd consider doing a third season of her Fox reality show if she can cross the Atlantic. "Maybe we could go to Europe or something. That would be fun," says the hotel heiress. The leggy blonde and gal-pal Nicole Ritchie have already invaded a small Arkansas town and traveled cross-country. Maybe sending her abroad is just our way of getting back at the French.

Down for the Count

Does having kids lower your IQ? An Indiana University report said it did. So on Sept. 7, MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann
ran with the story. One problem: The item wasn't true.

Countdown
found the blurb on The Hoosier Gazette, an online satirical newspaper that walks in the footsteps of The Onion. Josh Whicker of Corydon, Ind., operates the site and writes under assumed names. When a friend called to tell him the IQ story had been picked up, the 29-year-old middle-school teacher—who isn't a regular Countdown
viewer—was shocked.

"Then I laughed," Whicker says, adding that he doesn't feel responsible for the snafu. "If all the stories on the Web site are weird news, you should pay a little more attention. And check the disclaimer." Few did. Hoosier's fake news story also turned up on the CNN news crawl, The San Diego Union-Tribune
and London's Metro
newspaper.

Host Keith Olbermann, Countdown's managing editor, issued an apology within hours of the broadcast. Olbermann also ran a lighthearted story about the hoax the next night. "But did you hear the one showing how many IQ points newscasters lose when they see a story they really want to run?" he asked.

One skeptic was vindicated: comedy legend Carl Reiner, a guest on Countdown
the night the story ran. "What happens, if you have kids, you get busy," Reiner noted. "Who has time to take tests? You take a test, you don't care about the test." Kudos, Carl.

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