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Don Hewitt's frame 'error'

On the eve of CBS's umpteenth relaunch of its morning show, 60 Minutes
Executive Producer Don Hewitt recalled last week publicly describing his network's effort to get something going there as "a $30 million picture frame [without] a picture." The reference was to the new Early Show
studio CBS built at the south end of New York's Central Park. Hewitt, speaking at a seminar at New York's Lamb Theater, said he got a call from Viacom President Mel Karmazin afterward. Hewitt's characterization of the show was "dead wrong," said Karmazin. "It was closer to $40 million."

Hewitt also questioned the studio's street-level location. Unlike the gawking crowds at Rockefeller Center and Times Square (homes to Today
and Good Morning America, respectively), "you look out the window of the CBS morning set, and you're lucky if you see a squirrel in the park."—S.M.

What's up with Fox

Atlanta-based What's Up Interactive is about to add two more Fox stations to its roster of TV clients. Currently, the company maintains the Web sites of nine Fox O&Os, including handling Webcasting's version of centralcasting for news on the majority of those sites.

Company President Richard Warner says What's Up is in negotiations with two other TV groups with predominantly Fox affiliates to outsource their Web operations. The company has developed what is, in effect, syndicated Web content focusing on Fox prime time, including quizzes, games and graphics. What's Up is marketing its services to more broadcasters looking to cut costs.—J.E.

Accounting-rules battle

Just because cable operators are laying out new financial-reporting standards, don't expect them to agree on everything.

Looking to restore investor confidence after Adelphia battered cable stocks, operators collaborated on new guidelines for informing investors about accounting procedures. But, in a Wednesday conference call of cable CEOs and financial staffers to prepare for today's standards unveiling, it became clear that there are big disagreements, like how to count cable customers in single homes vs. apartment dwellers' buildings getting bulk discounts. An executive at one MSO expressed surprise at the timing of the announcement. "Don't take it out of the oven, it ain't done yet," the exec said. But Mike Willner, chairman of the NCTA and CEO of Insight Communications (photo), disagreed, saying, "There's substantial agreement among all the companies." We'll see.—J.M.H.

Adelstein in limbo

FCC nominee Jonathan Adelstein's chances of winning confirmation this year have dimmed considerably following the Senate's adjournment for election campaigning last week. Congress plans to return for a lame-duck session Nov. 12, but lawmakers aim to keep the session short by handling little beyond the Iraq issue and brokering a government-funding deal to keep the lights on. As a result, Adelstein stands little chance of taking his seat before next February. Some optimists hold out hope for a package of nominations, which presumably would include Adelstein, but that would require Majority Leader Tom Daschle and GOP counterpart Trent Lott to divert attention from higher priorities. As retaliation for Democratic defeats of White House judicial nominations, Lott has blocked confirmation of Adelstein, a Daschle aide.—B.M.

FCC's 'Nobel Prize'

FCC Chairman Michael Powell's faith in the marketplace got a boost a couple of weeks back with the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Economics. Sharing in the prize was George Mason University Professor Vernon Smith, who helped design the commission's process for auctioning spectrum and whose studies have tended to support marketplace forces over government regulation.—J.E.