In the Loop


The V Monologue

In response to Washington's indecency crackdown, Fox is running its V-chip/ratings PSA more frequently. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who pushed for the adoption of the system, has been calling on the networks to increase their educational efforts.

The Fox PSA is a retro-looking slide show that explains the ratings system and V-chip channel-blocking technology. One slide assures it's "easy to use." That notion may clash with the V-chip's pages-long instructions in new TV-set manuals.

Not exactly child's play. —J.E.

Regulation Now, Regulation Forever

The only local broadcaster witness at next week's House indecency hearing will ask for more
regulation, not less. Even before the Super Bowl incident, Harry Pappas, chairman of Pappas Telecasting, Visalia, Calif., sent a letter to some House members complaining of lax enforcement.

Pappas also backs a far more problematic bill, introduced by California Republican Doug Ose, that would make some words, plus a few additions, indecent regardless of context. Most observers, however, believe Ose's bill won't pass constitutional scrutiny. Pappas also wants an "inviolate" station right to programming. And we thought the GOP hated big government. —J.E.

Diane's Extreme Makeover

Primetime, ABC's long-running newsmagazine franchise, is scheduled for a makeover. If you remember, when the show launched in 1989, it was co-anchored by Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson. Lately, the Thursday edition has been a vehicle for Sawyer. The plan under discussion now is to turn it into "an ensemble show," according to an ABC News insider, "like 60 Minutes, although the correspondents' average age "won't be north of 70."

The new Primetime
marquee is expected to read as follows: Sawyer and (top to bottom) Chris Cuomo, Cynthia McFadden, and John Quiñones. "It may be a cast of equals," says the ABC insider. "But you know who the star will be."

Crazy Like A Fox

Like any good story, there are two versions why Fox News was largely absent from vet producer Linda Ellerbee's recent documentary about 24-hour news nets. Ellerbee says she always wanted Fox in Feeding the Beast, aired on diginet Trio. But Fox didn't see it that way.

Fox insiders say all Ellerbee's production company initially asked for was footage of Geraldo Rivera and his much maligned reporting gaffes in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In August, Ellerbee called Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who said Fox wouldn't participate. Then Fox's lawyers warned they'd sue if Ellerbee got the footage elsewhere.

In November, Ellerbee asked to interview Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, or Brit Hume. "I have a huge hole where Fox ought to be," she said in an e-mail. "Fox is a great story. I'd like to see it represented in this documentary." She also reiterated her desire to buy footage, promising to divulge how it would be used. Once again, Fox declined.

"We were willing to work with them, but they never asked for anyone," says an insider. "They asked for Geraldo footage." Ellerbee remembers things differently. "We had nice things to say about Fox." Ailes, she adds, told her Fox had nothing to gain from participating.

In Beast, she tells viewers Fox isn't there because "they indicated they didn't believe we'd be fair and balanced," a jab at a Fox slogan. Hardly, retorts a Fox staffer: "It was running on a network that gets less viewers than a test pattern." —A.R.