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B&C Eye

Signal shuffle

Four of New York's FM radio stations are still scrambling to reach listeners on the fringes of their coverage area nearly two months after they were knocked off the World Trade Center. Noncommercial WNYC-FM is broadcasting at reduced power from temporary facilities on the Empire State Building, reaching "about 80%" of its previous audience, said Dave Cappello, VP of programming and operations. It's getting the rest using WNYC(AM)'s antenna atop the Condé Nast building on Times Square.

The station is hoping to close a deal to locate on the Empire State Building permanently in a few weeks, but it's expensive. Annaul rent at WTC was about $40,000 (thanks to a Port Authority subsidy) compared to about $120,00 at the Empire State Building.

Also, WTKU(FM) is transmitting from Times Square as well, with Special Temporary Authority from the FCC to broadcast at full power. Management is contracting to share space with co-owned WHTZ-FM on the Empire State Bldg, Spanish Broadcasting System's WPAT-FM has been doubling up there with co-owned WSKQ-FM since Sept. 29. Columbia University's WKCR-FM is transmitting from a high-rise dorm.— M.G.

Universal reversal

Universal Worldwide Television says it is not shutting down, nor is it selling its syndicated series Blind Date
to a rival studio. But it is getting upgrades on its new first-run series, 5th Wheel. After several months of attempting to sell the syndication studios' wares to rivals, parent Vivendi-Universal executives say they are keeping their shows and developing new ones.

Sources say Warner Bros., Tribune, Paramount and Columbia TriStar all passed on Universal's Blind Date and The 5th Wheel for what was said to be a $30 million asking price. "There were conversations between other studios with Vivendi-Universal," says Universal Worldwide TV Senior VP Matt Cooperstein. "Based on the success of Blind Date, people came knocking." —J.S.

Collective bargaining

A group of broadcast executives led by Emmis Communications' Chairman Jeff Smulyan is said to be trying to get cable to pony up more money for broadcast content. Sources say they met last week in New York to toss around some ideas, said to include asking for relaxation of antitrust laws so that local broadcasters can work together to demand higher prices for broadcast content. The group reportedly includes Smulyan, Cox Television President Andy Fisher, Post-Newsweek Stations President Alan Frank and Hearst-Argyle Television President David Barrett. Fisher, Frank and Barrett are NAB board members.—P.A.

A Maze of development

Buena Vista's syndicated version of Millionaire
may be getting all the buzz, but The Maze, an "alternative" game format, and Good Samaritan, a hidden-camera comedy, are said also to be in the works from BVT for fall 2002. Meanwhile, Buena Vista's The Last Resort, a Disney-ized Temptation Island, appears headed for ABC Daytime rather than syndication. In other development news, MechWarriors
appears to be off Tribune Entertainment's 2002 slate, at least for now. Post-Sept. 11, the theme of the prospective series, based on the popular Microsoft game about world domination, hit a little too close to home, say insiders. One project Tribune is said to be high on is The Ultimate Adventure Company, based on experiences of explorer Barry Clifford and produced by Gale Ann Hurd (of the Terminator
film franchise). Buena Vista and Tribune execs weren'tommenting.—S.A.