Thursday, April 03, 2008
Media Notebook (April 3, 2008)
Collected and Edited by Rick Kaempfer
Highlights and links to the big stories in the news this week about the media. This column appears twice a week at MEDIA NOTEBOOK
Senate targets FCC with "Resolution of Disapproval" vote
(Radio Online) Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is following up on his promise last December as the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on a "resolution of disapproval" Wednesday (4-2), attempting to block the FCC's revisions of the media ownership rules adopted in December. Passing by a 3-2 vote, the Commission loosened the broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership ban in the top 20 markets under certain conditions. No other rules were changed. 'The FCC says this is a modest compromise, but make no mistake, this is a big deal,' Dorgan said earlier this month. 'When nearly half of the people in this country are told that in their cities and towns the media will get the green light to consolidate, they will not be happy. The proposal would also create a greatly relaxed approval process for newspapers to buy TV stations in any U.S. media market and spur a new wave of media consolidation in both large and small media markets.'"
The CBS News cuts run deep
(NY Times) Bill Carter writes: "News operations at CBS stations in several cities started a series of job cuts this week even as the CBS News network moved ahead with plans to lay off about 1 percent of its nearly 1,200 employees. Over the last several days, layoffs were ordered at local stations that CBS owns, including ones in New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. Dana McClintock, a spokesman for CBS, said the actions at the network and the local stations were not related. 'This is not the result of any corporate mandate,' Mr. McClintock said."
(Rick's note: Mmm Hmmm. Just a coincidence. In Chicago one of those cut was one of my favorites...)
Mary Ann Childers let go at Channel 2
(Chicago Sun-Times) Robert Feder writes: "Mary Ann Childers, a respected and award-winning 28-year veteran of Chicago television news, was among at least 17 staffers whose positions were eliminated Monday at WBBM-Channel 2. The latest wave of cutbacks hit the CBS-owned station as part of massive companywide reductions at the network's owned-and-operated stations. Childers was a top news anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 for 14 years before joining Channel 2 in 1994 as an anchor and reporter. Most recently she has been Channel 2's medical editor and special projects reporter."
I've previously written about how I feel about Mary Ann
Hulu traffic starts big, falls fast
(Silicon Alley Insider) Michael Learmonth writes: "Traffic to Hulu shot up the week of its public debut on March 12, but dropped off during the following week, according to Hitwise. That's not too surprising given curiosity around the launch. But it is a sign that Hulu's growth curve is going to be bumpy. The week after its debut, Hitwise ranked Hulu as the 13th video site in terms of market share. (No. 1: YouTube, of course). But in its second week, Hulu dropped down to 18th place, one spot behind AOL's Truveo, and one ahead of LiveLeak."
Is MSNBC picking on Hillary?
(Village Voice) Wayne Barret writes: "With Fox so thoroughly associated with the GOP, and CNN trying so hard to appear 'balanced,' upstart MSNBC has become the cable network for Democratic voters by default and, like many of the Democrats themselves, was tilting toward Obama very early. Despite Clinton's recent wins, Scarborough's fellow MSNBCers have kept up their bruising treatment of her. Chris Matthews started things off with a roundhouse blow in January, when he said that she had become a senator and had a shot at the presidency only because of her husband's infidelities. More recently, Matthews has been beating the drum for Clinton's withdrawal as if it has become of a test of her honor. Even the network's usually most detached reporter, David Shuster, got into the Clinton-bashing when he wondered aloud whether the Clintons were 'pimping out' daughter Chelsea, costing him a two-week suspension. Tucker Carlson declared that he found Hillary so 'castrating' that he 'involuntarily' crossed his legs whenever she came on TV, a reflex that neatly contrasted with the 'thrill' that Matthews said he felt creeping up his leg whenever Obama spoke. Meanwhile, Keith Olbermann (who, it must be pointed out, occasionally invites this writer on his show) tried for months to stay above the scrum, but lately has been taking on Hillary night after night—never trash-talking like his teammates, but eventually deriding Hillary in one of the 'Special Comment' editorials he'd previously saved for acts of war and official treachery."
Banks ask NY Supreme Court to throw out Clear Channel lawsuit
(Radio Online) The six banks being sued by Clear Channel and private equity firms Thomas H Lee Partners and Bain Capital asked a New York state court on Monday to dismiss the suit. CC and the buyout firms filed suit last week in Texas and New York to force the banks completion of the pending $26 billion merger. A Texas judge granted the temporary order to keep the banks from pulling out. "Plaintiffs have presented no basis for litigation, much less proceeding in an expedited manner," the banks said in heir filing with the New York State Supreme Court.
Tribune's Looming Deadline
(Crain's Chicago Business) Ann Saphir writes: "Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell's about-face on protecting assets other than the Cubs appears to be a simple matter of meeting a deadline. The company has about $12 billion in debt, most of it the result of Mr. Zell's leveraged buyout in December. A first payment of $650 million comes due Dec. 4. The original plan when Mr. Zell took control of the company was to raise the cash by selling the Cubs, which could fetch $700 million or more. But that deal is taking longer than expected, as Mr. Zell seeks to boost his Cubs take by selling Wrigley Field separately. At press time, the likely Wrigley buyer, the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, had yet to announce an offer. And bidding on the team probably won't begin until the stadium deal gets clearance from state legislators and Major League Baseball. Without a Cubs sale, Mr. Zell must raise the $650 million elsewhere. He also had a 30% drop in fourth-quarter cash flow, which he says was worse than projected. Those two things probably explain why, after insisting for months that he wouldn't make other divestitures, Mr. Zell on March 20 said he had started a "strategic review" of the company's assets to determine if any could be sold to boost operations or pay down debt."
Huffington Post plans on going local
(NY Times) Brian Stelter writes: "Ms. Huffington herself now spends less time on blog posts condemning the Bush administration (although there’s still plenty of that) and more time reimagining The Huffington Post as what she calls an “Internet newspaper.” In October, the site hired a new chief executive, Betsy Morgan, from CBS Interactive, and this summer the site will take an ambitious step by introducing its version of a metropolitan section: local versions for major cities. Whether readers will follow the site into new areas, however, is an open — and expensive — question. The plan will put The Huffington Post into competition with existing newspapers and, arguably, with companies like Yahoo, AOL and CNN.com."
(Mediaweek) Tony Case writes: "John Micklethwait, editor of the highbrow British news and opinion weekly The Economist, knew his magazine had solidified its place in the American culture when The Simpsons’ beloved, hapless patriarch paid homage in an episode. But the magazine’s recent business successes on these shores are anything but a joke. It has achieved impressive gains in ad business and readership and scooped up industry accolades (most recently, a National Magazine Award nom for General Excellence), even as much larger news and business titles wither and as a certain high-profile launch—one promising “business intelligence” on the front of every cover—doesn’t look so smart after all. In recognition of that achievement, AdweekMedia has selected The Economist’s Micklethwait and publisher Paul Rossi as Executive Team of the Year, and the title comes in at No. 1 on this year’s Hot List."
Kathie Lee Gifford coming back to morning TV
(TV Newser) Starting next Monday, Gifford will be teamed with Hoda Kotb to anchor the network's seven-month-old fourth hour. Insiders tell us Gifford and Kotb took part in a photo shoot Saturday to promote the pairing. The fourth hour of the Today show airs at 10am most markets, meaning Gifford will go head to head in some parts of the country with her former co-host of Live Regis Philbin.
CNN's John Roberts making mark on morning TV
(TV Guide) Former CBS News veteran John Roberts is coming up on his first year as co-anchor of CNN's American Morning. While it's not getting the same ratings boom that the cable network is experiencing the rest of the day, AM's first-quarter audience is up 11 percent from a year ago as Roberts and co-anchor Kiran Chetry offer a more straight-ahead alternative to the entertainment/news hybrids that the broadcast networks and Fox News offer in the morning. But Roberts tells The Biz the program will be getting some adjustments when a new executive producer comes on board.
FCC seeks comments from stations
(MelPhillips) Mel Phillips writes: "It started late Thursday with an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on various rules that would mandate how broadcasters serve their communities. If you are now, or have ever worked in Radio or TV, you know this is trouble. The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) sent out 'suggestions' to the '8,300 free, local radio television stations and broadcast networks' they represent on what they might include in their comments to the FCC...What the NAB suggests is for stations to (1) Detail descriptions of their efforts to assess the needs of your communities (when I was program director of WRKO, I was sent to the FBI to conduct an ascertainment interview and felt a bit uncomfortable wearing my 70s-style full-length beard and quasi-hippie clothes for the interview. I'm surprised I wasn't booked or whatever the FBI does to suspicious looking people); (2) How the FCC's proposals will negatively affect your station and (3) Why these new rules will not improve your already excellent local service record (the NAB is being overly generous with number #3)."
Updated interviews with Bobby Skafish, Wendy Snyder, and Scott Childers
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke Bobby Skafish, Wendy Snyder and Scott Childers, and asked them to update us on their latest career moves since I interviewed them since last year. Bobby (photo) talked about doing afternoons at the Drive. Wendy talked about her new show on WLS, and Scott Childers talked about his new show at Star 96.7. This weekend I'll be speaking with original WLS Rock-Jock Bob Hale.