In the Loop


Once more: Tauzin Is Staying Put

Perennial rumors of Rep. Billy Tauzin's imminent departure for the private sector resurfaced last week, forcing spokesman Ken Johnson to risk a finger sprain as he phoned denials to clamoring reporters. This time, Tauzin was said to be replacing octogenarian Jack Valenti at the Motion Picture Association of America (although Valenti has not indicated he's stepping down). The furor, lobbyists say, prompted House Speaker Dennis Hastert to ask that Tauzin clarify his plans. A previous rumor had the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman taking Tom Wheeler's old spot at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. What's next, Johnson asked, Hilary Rosen's soon-to-be vacant post atop the Recording Industry Association of America? Johnson's unofficial statement: "Yesterday, it was CTIA, today, it's MPAA, tomorrow maybe it will be RIAA. Frankly, we're F-E-D-U-P." —B.M.

Sony Sticks With eBayTV Bid

Sony Pictures Television left NATPE last week without major-market clearances for eBayTV ,
the new reality show it has been developing with the online auction house. But Sony says not to worry. "We're in very deep negotiations with major station groups," one executive there says without naming names. And even without them, "we have critical mass to launch right now." The executive cited agreements with Belo, Gannett, Media General, Raycom, Pegasus, Clear Channel and Viacom. Sony has opened production offices in Los Angeles and is looking for an executive producer and production team. It already has a host: Molly Pesce (left), a former Miss Florida, who has hosted shows on Comedy Central. "For us, whether we will launch is not even a question," said the Sony executive. "We are going forward."—P.A.

House Hunting

While we are on the subject of eBay and TV (see item at left), Scott Jones, former TV news director and current proprietor of the maverick Web site with the not-ready-for-print name (we will call it F***, is auctioning, via eBay, a day at the helm of his Web site, which dishes TV-station dirt. He is inviting people to trash their bosses, in keeping with the overall tone of the site and within the bounds of civil law. Jones wants to raise money for "a blowout party at RTNDA" in Las Vegas. He hopes to rent out the house used by MTV's Real World Las Vegas
—which, he says, will cost about $5,000—and would like a few grand more for food, beverages, entertainment, etc. The idea was inspired by recent uses of eBay to market news sets and even low-power TV stations. "If KCBS can sell its sets online," he said, "why should I be left out?" Bidding ends early this week.—D.T.

Spaces Gets a Surprise

Late-night Trading Spaces
addicts got a surprise all right, but it was not the surprise ending to the show's Jan. 18 episode, on which the last 10 minutes were live. In the midnight repeat of Trading Spaces'
"Vegas: Live Reveal"
episode, instead of seeing the usual redecorator reactions, viewers watched a bland camera walk-through and some tape hiccups in which bits of segments repeated themselves. TLC blamed the production glitch on technical problems with its uplink facility. To make it up, TLC planned to replay the Vegas
episode last Sunday night.

The premiere of the Vegas episode (in which the live ending went off without a hitch) nabbed a 4.4 rating, the series' best-ever Nielsen marks.—A.R.

Soul-less Journalists

Some BET viewers learned that Showtime drama Soul Food
(below) was coming to the channel before reporters did. BET started running promotions for its first big acquisition more than a week before the off-net deal for the Paramount show was unveiled at the Television Critics Tour in Los Angeles. BET execs were nervous that the promotions would spoil the surprise, but their secret was safe: Reporters apparently didn't catch the on-air ads or break the news.—A.R.