One of the nation's biggest corporate scandals in recent years reached a dramatic end Thursday as a federal jury in Manhattan convicted Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas and his son Timothy, the company's former CFO, of conspiring to loot the cable company of hundreds of millions of dollars. Jurors said that they were deadlocked on most of the charges against a second son, Michael Rigas, the company's former operations chief, and were ordered by Judge Leonard Sand to resume deliberations today (Friday). A fourth defendant, assistant treasurer Michael C. Mulcahey, was acquitted. Adelphia, which has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, has put itself up for sale, but has reportedly encountered difficulties dealing with potential buyers because of he chaotic accounting system that was in place during the Rigas reign. Today's Wall Street Journal observed that Adelphia is unable to produce audited financial statements for buyers. Moreover, the company still faces multiple lawsuits; indeed the Journal observed that there are over $1 trillion of claims against Adelphia. Meanwhile, a federal judge in New York on Thursday denied Martha Stewart's request for a new trial.
CURTAIN MAY FALL ON MASTERPIECE THEATER
Following the loss of ExxonMobil as its longtime corporate underwriter, PBS's flagship drama Masterpiece Theater is facing the possibility of cancellation, PBS chief Pat Mitchell told the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Los Angeles Thursday. "It used to be that if the CEO of a company just loved Masterpiece Theater, they just wrote the check," Mitchell told the group. "There are very few companies that operate that way [now]," she said, noting that funds for philanthropic work are placed in the hands of advertising agencies to distribute. As for Masterpiece Theater, she said, "We've got to get an underwriter here, and we are determined to do it."
NIELSEN STUDY BACKFIRES
A study commissioned by Nielsen Research in an effort to counter claims by Latino organizations that the Nielsen ratings system undercounts Latino viewers has produced the opposite result from the one intended. As reported by MediaPost's online Media Daily News, the study, by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, concluded that Nielsen Research may be undercounting Latinos at the present time and certainly has in the past. The study was released on the same day that Nielsen began rolling out its controversial "local people meters" in Los Angeles, which minority activists have denounced.
VIEWERS WATCHING MORE DVD'S
Network ratings last week may have been well off the pace they set in 1999, but according to the latest figures from the company, that didn't mean that people walked away from their TV sets. In fact, if they had a DVD player, they were spending a lot of time in front of those sets, with purchases of DVDs up 30 percent from the comparable week a year ago. (Rentals were down 20 percent.)
NBC TO DEVOTE THREE HOURS TO EACH PARTY CONVENTION
NBC announced Thursday that it will devote an hour a day to three of the four days of the Democratic and Republican conventions. During the Democratic convention, it will omit coverage on July 27, when Senator Edward Kennedy speaks to the convention. During the Republican convention, it will forego the night that it pays tribute to the late President Reagan. PBS has previously announced that it will air three hours of primetime coverage on all of the convention nights. ABC and CBS said yesterday that they have not yet decided what they'll do.
MURDOCH THE SOURCE OF THE POSTS GAFFE?
Rupert Murdoch was the source for the New York Post's erroneous front-page headline last week that John Kerry had chosen Richard Gephardt as his running mate, the New York Times reported today (Friday), citing a Post employee who was not identified. (The Times said that Post employees who discussed the gaffe with other news outlets would be fired.) The employee said that Murdoch, whose News Corp company owns The Post, phoned the newspaper with his tip after 10:00 p.m. on Monday. Kerry announced on Tuesday that he had selected John Edwards to be his running mate. A spokesman for The Post denied that Murdoch was its source. Asked during an interview with NBC-owned cable outlet CNBC at Paul Allen's media conference in Sun Valley whether he provided the tip, Murdoch responded indirectly: "Everybody made a mistake and they are embarrassed and they have apologized for it and it happens even on NBC sometimes."
SUPERNANNY PULLS SUPER RATINGS IN U.K.
A new British reality series, in which a tough nanny moves into homes brought to the point of chaos by unruly children, has become a big hit. Supernanny, featuring Jo Frost and carried on Channel 4, drew an average audience of 4.6 millions and a 21.2 share on Wednesday night.
CAMELOT MAY NOT RETURN FOR DISNEY
Disney seemed certain to take another drubbing at the box office this weekend as returns for its Wednesday premiere of King Arthur came in below expectations. (Daily Variety described the opening as "not stellar.") The film grossed $4.8 million, less than half the $10.04 million grossed by Spider-Man 2, which celebrated its eighth day in release by crossing the $200 million mark ($202,115,000), getting there faster than any film in history. The $130-million film, which is playing on 3,000 screens earned less than the $6-million Fahrenheit 9/11, which Disney rejected, earned in its opening on fewer than 900 screens. Indeed, on a per-theater basis Wednesday King Arthur and Fahrenheit took in about the same amount of money. Fahrenheit's gross now stands at $66.6 million.
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: ANCHORMAN -- THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY
It's not likely to draw away much of Spider-Man 2's audience, but Will Ferrell's Anchorman -- The Legend of Ron Burgundy is being viewed by critics as fitting counterprogramming to the young superhero. Funny, too. Several reviewers observe that they have known TV anchorpersons just like the one depicted by Ferrell. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times even issues this disclaimer: "I have known and worked with a lot of anchorpersons, even female anchorpersons, over the years, and I can tell you that almost all of them are good people -- smart professionals who don't take themselves too seriously. But every once in a while you get a Ron Burgundy, and you kind of treasure him, because you can dine out on the stories for years." Nevertheless, most of the critics appear to agree that the film is incessantly silly. Not that there's anything wrong with that, they seem to add. Ty Burr in the Boston Globe writes: "Sloppy, crude, pursuing the most far-flung tangents in hopes of a laugh, Anchorman still gave me more stupid giggles than I'd care to admit if I weren't paid to." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News describes the movie as "intermittently hilarious and flat-out stupid." John Anderson in Newsday writes that the title role fits Ferrell "like a custom-tailored leisure suit. If you like what he does (and not everyone does), Anchorman provides exactly what you'd expect -- solid laughs, solid misses, the jokes that fail being almost as funny as the ones that don't, because Ferrell's patent cluelessness is itself the heart of the matter." For Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post, the movie represents a case of "tone over sense." He adds: "It's a skit, but so ingeniously constructed and convincingly executed that it manages to sustain its energy far beyond sketch length." Clearly, the critics agree, the success or failure of the movie hinges on the audience's response to Ferrell. And Manohla Dargis in the Los Angeles Times says he's "the best thing to hit mainstream American movie comedy since the Farrellys thwacked it with spit and giggles." But Joel Siegel of ABC's Good Morning America concludes that Ferrell's character "is just a jerk."
WALL STREET JOURNAL BREAKS SECRECY OVER SPIELBERG FLICK
While noting that Steven Spielberg has been trying to keep a secrecy lid on his next movie for DreamWorks, today's (Friday) Wall Street Journal reports that information about the film, which, it said, is expected to be his most important since Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, has begun leaking out. According to the newspaper, the film is likely to be titled Vengeance and will star Eric Bana (Hulk, Troy) as an agent for Israel's secret service, the Mossad, hunting down the Palestinian terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Marvin Levy, Spielberg's publicist, denied that security on the set of the movie was the primary reason why the studio was refusing to release any information about it. Security, Levy said, "is just another factor, but not the primary reason" for secrecy.
ONE OF FOUR PIRATES MOVIES, SAYS MPAA
One out of every four Internet users worldwide have illegally downloaded a movie, according to a study conducted for the Motion Picture Association of America. Casting doubt on claims by consumer advocates that movie downloaders continue to go to movies anyhow, even to see films that they've already downloaded, the study found that 17 percent of those surveyed spend less at the box office and at DVD retail outlets. MPAA spokesman Matt Grossman told today's (Friday) Hollywood Reporter and the study "indicates a direct correlation between illegal downloading online and of a legitimate market being negatively impacted."
WEINSTEIN AND EISNER HOLD FRIENDLY TALKS IN IDAHO
Despite reports that talks between Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein and Disney CEO Michael Eisner had reached an impasse and that Weinstein was preparing to exit the company, the two appeared to hold a friendly meeting at Paul Allen's media mogul retreat in Sun Valley, ID Thursday. "I think the press is just having fun with us. I think this will all be resolved amicably," Weinstein said during an interview with CNBC.
MALAYSIA RULES ONLY CHRISTIANS MAY VIEW GIBSON'S FILM
A decision by the Malaysian government's film censorship board to allow Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ to be viewed only by Christians has touched off a political uproar in the country. The al-Jazeera website reported Thursday that during a session of the Malaysian parliament on Tuesday, Teresa Kok, a member of the Democratic Party opposition, asked: "Does it mean that the government is going to implement a policy where movies concerning ... Buddhism and Buddha could only be watched by Buddhists and movies related to Hinduism can only be watched by Hindus?" She later added: "Let the people of Malaysia enjoy the freedom to watch any movie of their choice. The government should stop practicing unnecessary censorship and treating the people like children," she said. More than half the population of the country is Muslim.