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B&C Eye

It's nice, but...

The New York Times
reported last week that New York broadcasters were planning to construct a free-standing tower with restaurant and observation deck to support their broadcast antennas at a cost of $200 million. The story was accompanied by a rendering from architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox of the tower that would rise 2,000 feet. The only problem is that the plan was news to New York broadcasters. The Metropolitan Television Alliance, the consortium of broadcasters working on replacing the tower lost in the Sept. 11 attack, says the free-standing tower is just one of many that have been proposed. In fact, the alliance is now leaning toward a basic guide-wire tower, cheaper and faster to build. The group's first choice for the tower site remains Governor's Island, just off the southern end of Manhattan. Second choice is across the harbor in New Jersey's Liberty State Park.—K.K.

RCN quits Ivy League

Financially ailing and loaded with debt, overbuilder RCN has put its Princeton, N.J., cable system on the block. A high-income, high-growth pocket fueled by Princeton University, the 80,000-sub system is just part of RCN's portfolio of conventional cable systems that had provided steady cash flow to support RCN's risky overbuilds in New York, Boston and Chicago. But a financial crunch forced RCN to renegotiate loan agreements with banks and is now compelling it to sell some choice assets. Industry execs that have sniffed say the properties are in need of a rebuild. Given RCN's financial pinch, the $400 million or so the properties should fetch should please bankers. But "it's a little like selling your seed corn," says one cable exec. Comcast and Cablevision are obvious bidders because they operate in New Jersey. But one investment banker asks, since RCN has overbuilt their systems, "Do you give your enemy bullets that he then tries to shoot you with?"—J.M.H.

Homeward bound

Since Sept. 11, media darling Ashleigh Banfield has hopscotched the world for MSNBC. But soon she'll be turning an eye homeward. Her prime time show, A Region in Conflict, which has been heavy on international news, will relaunch as Ashleigh Banfield on Location
and be balanced with domestic news. "We're going to broaden her out to more stories, but she'll always be in the field somewhere," said MSNBC President Erik Sorenson. The new format will debut in late June when Phil Donahue joins the prime time lineup at 8 p.m. ET That's when Banfield will move up to 10 p.m., making room for Chris Matthews' Hardball
to take over at 9 p.m. Brian Williams will continue to hold down the 7 p.m. slot.—A.R.

The spin on Randall Winston

Tuesday nights must be confusing for Randall Winston. At the same time the credits for NBC's Scrubs bear Winston's name as producer, ABC's Spin City features a major character—the Mayor of New York—with the same name. It's neither coincidence nor inside joke. The Spin City character was, in fact, named for producer Winston, back when he worked with Spin City co-creators Gary David Goldberg and Bill Lawrence (Lawrence also created Scrubs). Winston's resemblance to the character ends with the name. Barry Bostwick (pictured) is a tall white man while the real Winston is an even taller black man. But another character on Spin City—the Mayor's aide Carter Heywood, played by Michael Boatman—is actually based on Winston. Winston says he had hoped Spin City would make his name popular "so I can get great tables in New York restaurants." And he still would like the show to do well—as high as second in its time slot, in fact.—D.T.