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B&C Eye

Warner Bros. vs. ET?

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution wants to take on Entertainment Tonight
and Access Hollywood
next fall with a first-run entertainment-news magazine. At least that's the word the studio has put out to some members of the station community. The show would be a companion to Warner Bros.' Extra, which was an entertainment magazine but relaunched as a "celebrity lifestyle" show to keep top-market NBC O&O's in the fold after NBC took control of Access. A Warner Bros. spokesman said he had no knowledge of the project. But that might be the development people keeping a lid on it, as they tried to do with the show with Ellen DeGeneres (See "Week That Was").—S.M.

Standing up for radio

As the sole radio representative on an all-star NAB-RTNDA Super Session on local news, WTOP(AM) Washington news and programming VP Jim Farley made his presence felt. Dismayed because he believed the panel—particularly moderator and NBC News anchor John Siegenthaler—was ignoring radio by making references to "viewers," not "listeners," a frustrated Farley commented that the panel consisted of "nine TV guys and one radio guy; that's what it takes to get a story on the air or change a lightbulb." Panelists and the audience appeared surprised by the comment. One suggested the session was beginning to sound like therapy. Farley acknowledged his comment made him "fair game," but said he hoped he'd made his point. "I felt like an inconvenience up there."

Cloudy Channel

It's uncertain whether Clear Channel Chairman Lowry Mays spent any quality time with FCC Chairman Michael Powell at the NAB last week. But Mays certainly needs to. The Federal Trade Commission has approved Clear Channel's $800 million deal to buy Ackerley Group and its 18 TVs, but the FCC hasn't. A company insider and others following the deal speculate the FCC review is hung up in part by allegations against Clear Channel, by far the country's largest radio group, and, after this merger, the fourteenth-largest TV group. One charge pending at the FCC is that Clear Channel uses front companies to hold more radio stations than local ownership limits allow. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) also has asked the FCC to investigate whether the company's efforts to obtain radio support for artists signed by its concert-promotion business violate "payola" prohibitions.—S.M.

Moyers on mergers

Now with Bill Moyers,
the new PBS weekly public affairs/news show, is said to be working on an investigation of "business models and vertical integration" in the radio business. That includes poster-company Clear Channel Radio, which owns over 1,200 stations, and its CEO, Randy Michaels. The company has been under heavy scrutiny in Washington of late (see item, this page).—J.E.

Close call

Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.) tried to sock it to broadcast and cable news organizations last week by adding an amendment to election reform that would have fined them up to $10 million and won them up to five years in the slammer for broadcasting false information about elections. The Senate recognized the implausibility of passing such a measure and, instead, included an alternative that requires a new federal agency created by the bill, the Election Administration Commission, to conduct a study on the broadcasting of election results. The Senate and House have passed versions of election reform. Now it goes into a conference committee for reconciliation.—P.A.