NETWORKS RELEASE STRIKE SCHEDULES
CBS and NBC on Monday unveiled revised schedules for winter that take into account an extended strike by the Writers Guild of America. The schedules, which, as expected, include a hefty mix of reality programs, also -- surprisingly -- include a fair number of original episodes. CBS, for example, is bringing back Jericho, a low-rated series from last season that it canceled and then put back into production after an outcry from fans. It's also returning The New Adventures of Old Christine to its line-up and launching a new comedy, The Captain, starring Jeffrey Tambor. NBC will be adding new episodes of its old-reliable, Law & Order. (New episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent that ran earlier this season on the USA cable network, will now be repeated on the broadcast network.) Of course, both networks will air repeats of their most popular programs, which often perform better against rivals' originals when they customarily air during slow periods of the regular season. CBS is also bringing back its three-time-a-week Big Brother reality show for the first time during the regular season. (Heretofore it has aired during the summer.) Meanwhile, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker said Monday that the writers strike will not have a serious impact on the company's profits if it continues into 2008. At the annual Global Media Week & Communications Conference in New York, Zucker maintained that earnings from primetime TV account for only 10 percent of NBC-Universal's profits.
ARE STUDIOS GROWING "CONCILIATORY?"
Talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers are expected to resume today (Tuesday) after a four-day hiatus during which negotiators for the writers caucused about the latest offer from the AMPTP, which they rejected within hours after it was presented last Thursday. In an advertisement placed in trade publications today, the AMPTP insisted that the proposal was not a "take-it-or-leave-it offer" but was submitted in the hopes of allowing "both sides to engage in the kind of substantive give-and-take negotiation that can lead to common ground." Daily Variety today described the tone of the ad as "conciliatory."
FCC APPROVES TRIBUNE SALE
The FCC on Monday approved the sale of the Tribune Co. to a group led by investor Sam Zell for $8.2 billion and granted a permanent waiver of its joint-ownership rules, allowing Tribune to keep its radio and TV stations in Chicago. However, it refused to do the same in five other markets where Tribune owns both newspapers and broadcast stations, including Los Angeles, the nation's second largest media market, where Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times and KTLA. The FCC said it would allow temporary waivers in those cities if Tribune appeals its decision. The commission voted 3-2, along party lines, with the two Democratic commissioners blasting the decision. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein described it as "regulatory contortionism." Commissioner Michael Copps said the story about the vote should be headlined, "FCC Majority Uses Legal Subterfuge to Push for Total Elimination of Cross-Ownership Ban."
CUBAN WANTS CUBS
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban insists that he's dead serious about making an attempt to buy the Chicago Cubs from Sam Zell once the sale of Tribune Co., which owns the baseball team, is concluded. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Cuban pooh-poohed published speculation that baseball owners would not allow him into their club. "Why would I be involved in something if I didn't think I can be successful?" he remarked. "It's a passion project, it makes great business sense for me." Cuban suggested that the team might open opportunities for his other ventures, including his Landmark Theaters chain, which, he said, could present live high-definition big-screen presentations of Cubs away games, presumably at its theaters in Chicago and Highland Park.
FOX NEWS BLOCKS POLITICAL AD
A group calling itself the Center for Constitutional Rights accused the Fox News Channel Monday of refusing to allow it to buy ad time for a spot featuring Danny Glover criticizing America's policies toward Guantánamo Bay detainees. The ad, posted online at http://www.beyondguantanamo.org, was to have run in connection with a Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday in which lawyers for two Guantánamo prisoners are to argue that they have been denied habeas corpus rights. Vincent Warren, executive director of the CCR, said in a statement that FNC's rejection "is but another example of how Americans are shielded from the truth about Guantánamo and the implications of the war on terror." The ad has been accepted by the two other principal cable news channels, CNN and MSNBC, but Erin Kelly, a sales account representative for Fox News, wrote that the channel could not approve a spot alleging that the Bush administration was destroying the Constitution. "If you have documentation that it is indeed being destroyed, we can look at that." Warren called Kelly's "literal interpretation" of the spot "utterly ridiculous" and"emblematic of the political bias of Murdoch's media empire."