DISNEY TO BECOME PICTURE OF HEALTH

The Walt Disney Co. on Monday announced a company-wide campaign to end promotions of unhealthful foods to kids and eliminate sales of such food in its theme parks. Responding to warnings of a national epidemic of childhood obesity, the company said that it would only permit its characters to be used in food advertising and merchandising for products that met certain guidelines for calories and fat content. In a statement, Disney CEO Robert Iger said, "A company such as ours, with the reach we have, has a responsibility because of how much we can influence people's opinions and behavior." The new policy will affect sponsor messages on the Disney Channel and advertising on kids' programming airing on Disney-owned ABC-TV. Today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal observed that two Disney partners, Kellogg's and McDonald's, could be among those affected by the policy. For example, it noted that Kellogg's Keebler chocolate chip cookies, which promoted Disney's film Cars, derives half its calories from fat and that McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, also promoted by Disney, would not meet Disney's health guidelines because they are high in trans-fats.

REDSTONE BLASTS TV WATCHDOG GROUPS

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone has struck out against a regulatory system, that, he maintains, allows moralistic pressure groups to control the content of television programs. Accepting the Media Institute's Freedom of Speech award in Washington Monday night, Redstone said, "Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a a world where, increasingly and alarmingly, a couple thousand form complaints from people condemning shows that they have never watched can result in an indecency fine 10 times higher that it was a year ago." Redstone was presumably referring to Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council, a three-million-member organization that has generated virtually all of the complaints that resulted in recent FCC fines for indecency. Viacom is challenging them in court. Redstone told his audience that his business is fueled by creativity. "It is only when you remove the fear-inducing shackled of censorship," he said, "that you unleash the imagination."

FOX NEWS TRIPLES ITS FEE AT CABLEVISION

Analysts who had predicted that Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes would agree to carriage deals with cable systems for significantly less than the $1.00 per month per subscriber that he had been demanding were right. On Monday trade reports said that FNC had struck a new deal with Cablevision, which primarily serves the New York City area, for 75 cents per subscriber, on the high end of many analysts' forecasts. While below Ailes's pricetag, it amounts to three times the amount that FNC had been receiving under its current contract and makes it the fifth most expensive cable network. By contrast, CNN reportedly receives about 45 cents per subscriber. Reporting on the deal, Broadcasting & Cable commented Monday that it "set the pace for negotiations with other operators." Nevertheless, the trade publication observed, "negotiations with Comcast, Time Warner and EchoStar will likely be very difficult because all three have been as willing to fight to lower programming fees as Fox News is to increase them."

MSNBC.COM REMAINS TOP WEBSITE FOR NEWS

Although MSNBC continues to draw the fewest number of viewers of any cable news outlet, MSNBC.com, its online sibling, continues to draw a record number of users, delivering 88 million video streams during September, the most in its history. On September 5th, the website said Monday, MSNBC.com visitors watched 9.6 million video streams concerning the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, setting a record for the site. The previous record for video streams was set in August 2005 when 86 million were accessed during Hurricane Katrina. In a statement, Charlie Tillinghast, president of MSNBC.com, said, "The fact that the largest video month ever on MSNBC.com happened in a month without a major news event speaks volumes for the growth in popularity of online video."

DVR'S DON'T DIMINISH "LIVE" TV AUDIENCE, SAYS STUDY

Despite burgeoning sales of TiVos and other digital video recorders (DVRs), the number of viewers for "live" television on the broadcast networks has not changed and in fact appears to have risen slightly, according to a study by Havas media shop MPG and reported today (Tuesday) on MediaPost's website. Summing up, the study said, "It seems that DVR playback is adding significant audiences to some shows, but does not appear to be affecting the level of live viewing overall."

Brian B.