BRITISH NETWORKS JARRED BY SHAKE-UP AT TOP

In a move that was universally described in the British press as a surprising "coup," ITV, Britain's largest commercial broadcaster, announced today (Tuesday) that Michael Grade, chairman of the rival BBC, will leave the BBC and join ITV as executive chairman. Negotiations with Grade had been carried out in complete secrecy. Newspapers duly noted that he had not even been included in any analyst's list of candidates for the job. The ITV board of directors were described as thrilled with the appointment. The Financial Times described the mood at ITV as "euphoric." On the other hand, the London Telegraph, which was the first to report on the deal with Grade, described the scene at the BBC as "carnage." Reporter Jeff Randall commented, "People are incandescent with rage." The changeover comes as shares in ITV have plummeted as a result of audience defections. Grade took over the helm of the BBC two years ago following the resignation of its previous chairman, Gavin Davies, and its director general, Greg Dyke, in the wake of an investigation into a controversial BBC radio broadcast alleging that a report concerning alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been "sexed up" in order to make the case for war against Iraq. Grade had been given high marks for effectively restoring the reputation of the BBC. In recent months he has been the primary advocate for an increase in the license fee that all TV and radio set owners in Britain pay to fund the BBC. The increase has been resisted by the British government. News reports said that Grade's deal with ITV calls for him to receive a package likely to be worth more than $20 million over five years -- modest by American CEO standards, but huge by British standards. (The average British CEO earns about $1 million a year versus $8 million for the average U.S. CEO.) His base salary at ITV is said to be about $1,600,000, six times his earnings at the BBC, plus numerous incentives. In a statement today, Grade called the offer "an opportunity I could not resist." He added, "My first priority at ITV will be to support the team in accelerating the improvement in programming performance for our viewers and advertisers. This is the best way to enhance the value of the company for our shareholders."

DILLER DEFENDS CEO DOLLARS

Barry Diller, who as CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp, who received an estimated $295 million in compensation in 2005, said that activists and compensation consultants who are attempting to limit the earnings of corporation chiefs are "birdbrains." "I think the whole consultant group should be flushed into the East River," Diller told the Reuters Media Summit in New York.

IRAQ'S IN A "CIVIL WAR," NBC JUDGES

NBC News anchor Brian Williams said on his blog, The Daily Nightly, Monday that NBC had decided to refer to the conflict in Iraq as a "civil war" after "much consultation over the weekend with our colleagues, fellow journalists, historians, analysts and members of the military, both present and former." USA Today quoted Tom McPhail, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis as describing the network's decision as "a defining and negative moment" in the war in Iraq. In an interview with the Associated Press, Matthew Felling, spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Media and Public Affairs, compared the decision to Fox News Channel's to "stop saying 'suicide bombers' and start saying 'homicide bombers.'" The wire service observed that its own editors had "discussed the issue and haven't reached a definitive stance." On his talk show, carried by corporate sibling MSNBC, Don Imus called all of those at the network who made the decision "nitwits."

FOX EXECS WON'T FACE QUESTIONS ABOUT SIMPSON INTERVIEW

Days after Rick Feldman, who heads the National Association of Television Programming Executives (NATPE), told Broadcasting & Cable that he intended to grill Fox Broadcasting's scheduling chief Preston Beckman about the O.J. Simpson canceled special at the group's upcoming convention, Beckman has pulled out of his scheduled appearance, the industry magazine reported on its website today (Tuesday). Also pulled from the panel was Fox reality chief Mike Darnell. B&C implied that the pair had decided not to appear on the panel following publication of the interview with Feldman, in which he said, "I am going to talk to Preston and make sure he doesn't avoid the tough questions."

YOUTUBE IS OLDER THAN ANALYSTS THOUGHT

Surprising many industry analysts who widely assumed that those attracted to the video website YouTube are relatively young, a study by eMarketer, reported on the website ArsTechnica.com, has revealed that 54.5 percent are between the ages of 35 and 64, while only 19.1 percent are between the ages of 25 and 34. Only 12.6 percent are kids 12-17. Another research firm, Comscore, noted that 61.6 percent of visitors to YouTube earn more than $60,000 per year. ArsTechnica called the statistics "scary news for TV execs" and noted they "go a long way towards explaining why Google paid a staggering $1.64 billion to buy out YouTube last month. The fact that older, richer eyeballs are peering at YouTube videos makes that space especially attractive for advertisers."

MTV EXPANDING WEB EFFORTS

MTV plans to launch more than 20 websites in 2007 ranging in content from music to spirituality. The announcement was made by Philippe Dauman, the recently appointed CEO of MTV's corporate parent Viacom. The new websites are due to go online during the first half of the year.

Brian B.