Thursday, October 16, 2008

Media Notebook (October 16, 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

CBS stock drops well below $10, and even CBS/Viacom boss Sumner Redstone is selling
( Tom Taylor writes: "He got caught with too much debt when the market turned and is forced to announce that he’ll sell off $400 million of his controlling National Amusements’ stake in both CBS and Viacom – diluting his net worth, though not his voting control. That’s a selloff of about 20% of the Redstone family’s holdings in CBS and Viacom...Once again, you wonder if Redstone would like to rewind the tape to three years ago, when he decided to split up Viacom into CBS (radio, TV, other “slow growth” businesses) and a new, smaller Viacom (MTV and other cable assets, movies). You want agita? Think about stock in “CBS” falling $2.04 on Friday, to a historic new low of $8.10 a share. And the volume was ferocious – six times the normal trading levels. Since New Year’s Day, CBS stock has lost about 70% of its value, and it was only 15 months ago that “CBS” was hanging comfortably around $35."

Redstone family in dispute over stock sale
(Los Angeles Times) When the stock price is literally the only thing you care about in life, bad things happen when the stock price goes down. Claudia Eller writes: "The bitter feud between billionaire Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari, erupted again Tuesday over the murky circumstances surrounding the sale of $233 million in non-voting Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. shares by the family's privately held National Amusements Inc."

Feds want time to decide on Super Bowl Reveal appeal
(Broadcasting & Cable) John Eggerton writes: "Government lawyers say they need more time to decide whether to seek Supreme Court review of the indecency fine against CBS stations over the fleeting nudity in the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl half-time show. That's according to Media Access Project, which was served notice of the request. MAP was a party to the lower court challenge. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals last July threw out the fine, concluding the FCC's decision had been arbitrary and capricious and an unjustified departure from prior precedent. The deadline was Oct. 19 for filing a cert petition with the Supreme Court--essentially a request to hear an appeal of a lower court decision. The Solicitor General said it would need until Nov. 18."

NY Attorney General Cuomo files suit against Arbitron
(Radio Online) New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Friday that his office had filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court against Arbitron. The suit accuses the ratings giant of "deceptively claiming" that its Portable People Meter (PPM) system is valid, fair and representative of diverse radio markets. It also charges Arbitron with failing to disclose flaws in the PPM methodology including the accuracy of its African-Americans and Latinos samples. "Arbitron's rush to commercialize the PPM system without curing known flaws in the service distorts the marketplace, and threatens to drive minority broadcasters out of business. Arbitron must refrain from using this flawed product in New York until it is truly a reliable and fair service," said Cuomo.


Christopher Hitchens endorses Obama
(Slate Magazine) Journalist/Author/Writer Christopher Hitchens was a big supporter of the Iraq war, but still endorses Obama over McCain. Here's why: "On 'the issues' in these closing weeks, there really isn't a very sharp or highly noticeable distinction to be made between the two nominees, and their 'debates' have been cramped and boring affairs as a result. But the difference in character and temperament has become plainer by the day, and there is no decent way of avoiding the fact. Last week's so-called town-hall event showed Sen. John McCain to be someone suffering from an increasingly obvious and embarrassing deficit, both cognitive and physical. And the only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience. McCain occasionally remembers to stress matters like honor and to disown innuendoes and slanders, but this only makes him look both more senile and more cynical, since it cannot (can it?) be other than his wish and design that he has engaged a deputy who does the innuendoes and slanders for him."

Kathleen Parker talks about Sarah Palin

Christopher Buckley leaves National Review after Obama endorsement

(The Daily Beast) Christopher Buckley writes: "I had gone out of my way in my Beast endorsement to say that I was not doing it in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column, because of the experience of my colleague, the lovely Kathleen Parker. Kathleen had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen’s mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster. I didn’t want to put NR in an awkward position. Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it’s pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land...Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal...So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me."


Lorne Michaels: All the candidates will probably appear on SNL

(Chicago Tribune) Maureen Ryan writes: "Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of Saturday Night Live, predicts that the presidential and vice presidential candidates will stop by the comedy show before the election. He also said in a phone interview Tuesday that Tina Fey will return to play Gov. Sarah Palin. 'I think sooner or later, everyone will come through,' Michaels said of the candidates. He declined to give dates as to when Saturday Night Live viewers might see Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as their running mates, Sen. Joseph Biden and Gov. Palin."

McCain reschedules Letterman appearance

(Washington Post) Scott Butterworth writes: "McCain and Letterman, together again at last. Sen. John McCain will be on David Letterman's late-night talk show on Thursday, nearly a month after he canceled an appearance at the last minute, pleading a need to return urgently to Washington to address the economic crisis. Letterman learned during the taping of that Sept. 24 show that the Republican presidential nominee had not, in fact, left New York but intended to stick around until the next morning. Thus was born a made-for-TV feud. The talk-show host was clearly irritated by McCain's excuse once he learned the truth, and he used an in-house video feed, showing McCain getting makeup applied to his face before an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, to mock him during the Sept. 24 show. 'Now, he doesn't seem to be racing back to the airport, does he?' Letterman commented, adding, 'It's like we caught him getting a manicure.'"

Where is 30 Rock?
(NY Times) Bill Carter writes: "With her three Emmy Awards, her ubiquitous American Express commercials, and especially her must-see Sarah Palin impersonations, Tina Fey is not just the hottest star on NBC; she is about the hottest star in show business at the moment. So where is “30 Rock?” The hugely praised but ratings-challenged comedy has yet to return to NBC even as interest in its creator and star, Ms. Fey, has exploded. Several executives inside NBC asked last week why NBC’s entertainment division was waiting until Oct. 30 to get “30 Rock” back on the air. Ben Silverman, the co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, said, “If we knew then what we know today about how hot Tina was going to be, would we do it differently? Maybe,” he said."


Robert Feder looks back
(Chicago Sun Times) Robert Feder writes: "As my days at the Sun-Times are winding down, I've been reflecting on all we've shared over the years. With just a little while to go, here are personal thoughts, memories and, as I used to call them in my junior high school newspaper, Robservations.
(This is a must read if you're interested in Chicago media. Click on the link.)

Joe Ahern fired from Channel 2
(Chicago Sun Times) Wednesday's column is a pointed reminder of why this market will sorely miss Robert Feder. He takes a parting shot at the recently fired Joe Ahern, a man that was roundly despised by those who worked for him. It's a doozy: "In the end, there was no one else to blame and no one else to fire. Joe Ahern had six years, two months, two days and -- for much of that time -- a virtually unlimited budget to turn around the fortunes of WBBM-Channel 2. But in all that time and with all those resources, he left the CBS-owned station arguably worse off than he found it. He didn't just fail. He failed utterly. Miserably." (Don't worry, there's more. Click on the link to read the whole thing.)

Howard Stern loses his audience and his relevancy
(AP via Chicago Tribune) Evan Agostini writes: "Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed King of All Media, has lost his crown. The shock jock's syndicated morning radio show once drew a national audience of 12 million, but since he jumped to satellite radio three years ago, his listeners have dwindled to a fraction of that. Where once Stern routinely commanded Hollywood's hottest stars— George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts—his publicists today tout studio appearances by Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers or Hulk Hogan. Stern, weary of fighting the Federal Communications Commission over hefty fines and charges of indecency on his terrestrial show, wanted creative independence on the unregulated airwaves of satellite. He got it—and a lucrative five-year contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But for a 54-year-old man who once likened his youthful craving for media attention to a heroin addiction, the move may have come with unintended consequences...So far, the radio personality's leap from traditional media to a niche platform has come at a heavy price—namely, cultural relevancy. Unlike an Arianna Huffington, who vastly increased her reach on her upstart Web site, Stern's place in the national conversation has been reduced to a murmur in the din of the exploding entertainment universe."

Mini Interview: Steve Zana & Laura Waluszko
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Every week I'm featuring excerpts from my SHORE Magazine article about 14 local radio voices. This week: Steve Zana & Laura Waluszko from Indiana 105 in Valpo.

Chicago Radio Spotlight interview: Geoff Pinkus
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with the host of Living Large on WIND, Geoff Pinkus. We talked about his late entry into the radio business, his co-hostess Amy Jacobson, and how his show fits into the conservative WIND lineup. Coming this weekend: ESPN Radio's Marc Silverman.