My Special Hell Week - Broadcasting & Cable

My Special Hell Week

There's another whole world out there; it's called broadcasting
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Let me be the last to congratulate Decker Anstrom for being honored by the Kaitz Foundation last week. Last, because, I must confess, I didn't go to the Kaitz dinner or, for that matter, any of the other myriad conferences, meeting and events that comprise what we know as Cable Hell Week.

Figuring the magazine would be well represented in Hell by other editors, I spent my week on the broadcast circuit. Try as this magazine might to bring broadcasting and cable together, they remain too distinct communities. Only at the highest levels of Time Warner (just had to write that name this week without the "AOL") and the other mega-media companies and perhaps at the Hollywood programming factories do executives see themselves as belonging to a single television business. For most, it's either broadcasting or cable.

My broadcast week started Tuesday evening when P.J. Bednarski and I attended a King World-hosted celebration of the 4,000th installment of Wheel of Fortune at Radio City Music Hall. Steve Mosko, of Sony Pictures, which produces Wheel, gave a toast. "Four thousand. It's far beyond unbelievable." (Mosko is one who sees himself as a total TV guy. He was spotted at the Kaitz dinner Wednesday night.)

Pat and Vanna didn't mingle much, but did a little schtick. Pat said that Vanna was "a lot deeper" than most think. For example, Pat asked her, what are the vowels? "A, E, I, O, U," Vanna shot back without missing one or flubbing the order.

The only damper on the evening was the early numbers on King World's latest offering, Living It Up! With Ali & Jack. Nobody was predicting that it would see its 4,000th taping.

On Wednesday evening, I was at the American Yacht Club in Rye, N.Y., for the annual dinner of the Broadcasters' Foundation, a do-good group that raises money for indigent broadcasters. It was a small, but pleasant affair.

Foundation Director Gordon Hastings introduced the group's new chairman, Phil Lombardo, a small TV broadcaster (Citadel Communications), and noted that Phil would also soon become to new joint board chairman of the NAB. Earlier in the evening, Hearst-Argyle's David Barrett had confirmed that Phil would get the job at a conference-call vote on Thursday afternoon. Phil is stepping in for Jim Yager, who resigned because his wife has become seriously ill.

Another bit of news: According to Hastings, the Foundation has selected BMI's Frances Preston to receive its Golden Mike Award next February.

At dinner, I sat with Al Primo and Tack Nail. Primo is busy syndicating a new weekly show, Eyewitness Kids News. It debuts Sept. 27. Tack is finally retiring after nearly 50 years on the broadcasting beat, mostly for TV Digest. A party is planned for him in Washington on Oct. 8. Don't hesitate to crash it. Tack never needed an invitation.

I caught up with former Viacom boss Ralph Baruch at valet parking. He told me he is writing a book on his adventures in TV before rolling off in his SUV.

On Thursday afternoon, I attended the first-ever fundraising luncheon of the Library of American Broadcasting, in which "The First 50 Giants of Broadcasting" were honored. It was a classy event that filled a ballroom at the Park Hyatt. Tony Malara emceed, while LAB President Lucille Luongo fretted that the absence of some Washingtonians due to Hurricane Isabel would spoil the event. It didn't.

At the reception, former NAB joint board chairmen David Kennedy said he knew nothing of rumors that radio broadcasters and the broadcast networks were working together to wrest control of the NAB away from Hearst-Argyle, Cox and Post-Newsweek. But Kennedy said he has been advocating that the NAB hold a big "strategy meeting" to reevaluate its mission and its membership.

Not many members of the First 50 were there (sadly, most have passed away), but a few were on hand, including Walter Cronkite, Ward Quaal, Stanley S. Hubbard, Joan Ganz Cooney, and Ragan Henry. If I have to tell you who any of these people are, you must be cable.

So, Decker, I apologize for not being there to congratulate you in person. You do good deeds, you're a great executive and you somehow rescued cable in Washington after the debacle of 1992. And now that you are a broadcaster (Landmark owns TV stations in Nashville and Las Vegas), I expect to see you next year on the broadcast circuit with me.

It was a hell of a week.

Jessell may be reached at
hjessell@reedbusiness.com

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