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B&C Eye

Nuking the feed

Homeland defense may have put a crimp in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
and Judge Joe Brown.

Program directors in and around Chicago have been experiencing satellite-feed problems and some believe they may stem from military efforts to guard nuclear power facilities—Illinois has the most nuclear plants in the country.

Last week, hundreds of viewers complained after WPWR-TV Chicago's broadcast of the special Buffy
musical episode went to black several times. WCIU-TV Chicago GM Neal Sabin says several syndicated shows sent via satellite were affected by short blackouts. "Once in a while you get a bad satellite feed, but I think we have had more in the last couple of weeks than normal," says Sabin.

"There is a theory out there, which is possible but unlikely, that AWACS surveillance planes flying over the nuclear plants are disrupting the satellite feeds," says Al DeVaney, WPWR-TV's GM. DeVaney says the problems are more likely a byproduct of solar radiation. "There have been quite a few space storms lately," he says.—J.S.


"It may have been a little deceptive," Lowell Register acknowledges. "But it was not false." Register Communications' WPGA(TV) Macon, Ga., ran spots last week suggesting the station would soon be "off"—later revealing in a climactic newscast that the station was, in fact, "off and running" with a Salvation Army campaign.

The possibility of WPGA's sign-off drew national attention and local agencies say the uncertainties had advertisers wondering if they should switch their campaigns to another station. Local cable operator Cox Communications was preparing to provide ABC programming from Atlanta, and affiliated network ABC says it was in the dark as well. To keep the stunt under wraps, the station was not responding to inquiries about its seeming departure.

Register says the publicity value for local fundraising outweighed the confusion. —D.T.

Sassa sticks

Scott Sassa is apparently sticking around NBC after all. After months of speculation that he was leaving for an Internet post, Sassa, according to sources, has signed a new contract to remain president of NBC West Coast. Details on his new contract were not released by NBC, but his prior three-year deal would have been up at the end of December, insiders say. The news comes as NBC is enjoying a surprisingly strong start to the 2001-2002 season, which includes record ratings for hits Friends
and The West Wing. Sassa, who has been West Coast president since May 1999, oversees all of NBC's entertainment-related businesses. He joined NBC in September 1997 as president of NBC's TV stations division, then spent six months as head of the network's entertainment unit (October 1998-May 1999) before assuming his current post.—J.S.

Do I hear $450,000?

Permits to build four new TV stations will be auctioned Feb. 5, the FCC said Friday. Minimum bids for stations also were tentatively set: Ch. 51 Pittsfield, Mass., $420,000; ch. 47, Columbia, S.C, $295,000; ch. 34 Magee, Miss., $295,000; and ch. 16 Scottsbluff, Neb., $160,000. The Columbia permit drew the most interest, with 21 applicants, including Pappas Telecasting, Pegasus Broadcast and Trinity Broadcasting.—B.M.