UPN-WB battle brews in Richmond

Richmond, Va.'s UPN affiliate, WUPV(TV), owned by Lockwood Broadcasting and operating on ch. 65, seems to be going to great lengths to keep The WB from establishing an affiliate there.

Acme Television, a station group controlled by The WB chief Jamie Kellner, has an option to buy out local parties that have applied for the construction permit for ch. 52 in the Richmond market. Now Lockwood has filed a competing application to move its station there.

The logic is puzzling. Although a Lockwood application would keep The WB out, WUPV would relinquish a frequency earmarked for the wireless auctions for ch. 60-69—potentially passing up millions of dollars in the bidding.

Currently, The WB is shown in the wee hours on NBC affiliate WWBT(TV). Acme and Lockwood executives didn't return calls for comment.

Musical FCC chairs

Although FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani says she isn't leaving until year's end, jockeying continues for her seat.

Potential nominees include Andrew Levin, minority counsel, House Energy and Commerce Committee, under Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.); Kathleen Wallman, former White House staffer under Vice President Al Gore; Greg Rohde, former head of NTIA and a former top staffer to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.); Bob Roe, a commissioner with the Montana Public Service Commission and former head of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; and Chris McLean, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service at the USDA.

Marketing bill unlikely

The chances for passage of a bill empowering the FTC to regulate marketing of media violence to children aren't great, concedes Dan Gerstein, a staffer for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).

Gerstein told fellow panelists at a Media Institute lunch, including MPAA representative Fritz Attaway and First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere, that the bill is not the ideal solution but suggested that its purpose is to pressure the industry to self-regulate.

When Corn-Revere suggested there are large holes in the science alleging causal links between media violence and societal violence, Gerstein conceded that many on his side of the argument have exaggerated those studies, adding, though, that it is "clear that media violence does affect children."

Court consolidates challenges

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., has agreed to hear the direct-broadcast-satellite industry's plea for relief from its broadcast-carriage obligations in a single argument this September.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association had filed two lawsuits in Virginia courts, challenging both a law and FCC rules requiring satellite operators to carry every local TV signal in every local market they serve.

They had lost one of those suits, a decision they appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court, which already had the lawsuit challenging the FCC's rules on satellite carriage of local TV stations. Oral arguments will be heard the week of Sept. 24.

No limbo for Rush

Rush Limbaugh last week signed a deal with Premiere Radio Networks—valued at a reported $285 million—to keep yakking to about 20 million listeners on nearly 600 stations through 2009. The deal tethers Limbaugh to a Clear Channel Communications subsidiary, Premiere, which called the new agreement the "highest-priced distribution deal in the history of radio syndication."

Gannett, Media General see drops

Gannett and Media General separately reported declines in TV revenues and profits for the second quarter.

At Gannett, operating income at its TV stations dropped 24%, to $77 million, in the second quarter on a 13% revenue drop, to $178.7 million. For the first six months of the year, TV operating income was down 22%, to $131.2 million, on a 10% revenue decline, to $334.3 million.

At Media General, operating income for its TV group fell 27% in the second quarter, to $15.2 million, on a 9% revenue drop, to $66.6 million. For the first six months of the year, the company's TV operating income was down 14%, to $23 million, on an 11% revenue gain, to $126.7 million.

Sinclair declines less than predicted

Sinclair Broadcast Group, which reports its second-quarter financial results this week, says the results will be better than the company had expected.

Revenues for the second quarter will be $175.6 million, down about 8% on a pro forma basis and not the 13% to 15% decline the company had projected. Broadcast cash flow will total $75 million, down about 20%, instead of the 28% to 30% drop expected.

Shipmatessetting sail

Columbia TriStar Television Distribution has cleared 2001 reality/dating strip Shipmates
in 90% of the U.S. The syndicator, officially revealing station homes for the first time, has cleared 19 of the top 20 markets, including KCBS-TV Los Angeles, WPWR-TV Chicago and WPHL-TV Philadelphia. CTTD executives expect a deal on New York to be closed shortly. They say they have sold the show in a mix of access, early-fringe and late-fringe time periods. KCBS-TV Los Angeles is going to double-run the series from 3 to 4 p.m. PT.

Carter re-ups for x-files' ninth

Chris Carter has signed on to executive-produce The X-Files' ninth season this fall. There had been questions whether he would continue to oversee the series or shift to a consulting role. X-Files
underwent a big revamp last season, with new stars Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish and the scaled-back presence of David Duchovny, who is not expected back for season nine. X-Files' future beyond next season is in doubt—Gillian Anderson has said she'll leave at season's end—but producers are reportedly hoping to keep the show going with Patrick and Gish.

NY Times broadcast unit is off 12%

The New York Times broadcast division posted a 12% operating-profit decline for the second quarter, to $12 million, on a 6% revenue drop, to $38.7 million. For the first six months, profit for the unit, which includes eight network-affiliated TV stations and two radio stations, was off 13%, to $18.2 million, on a 6% revenue decline, to $71.1 million.