Fast Track

Karmazin, Dolgen, Split $55M

Viacom is reporting record earnings for the second quarter, including double-digit growth in broadcast and cable segments from second quarter 2003. The second-quarter report also shows that the company paid former Viacom President Mel Karmazin about $35 million in severance and former Entertainment Group President Jonathan Dolgen $20 million.

Cable-network revenue was up 18% over the same quarter last year to $1.587 billion, with operating income up 23%. On the broadcast-TV side—networks and stations—revenue was up 11% to 2.063 billion. Viacom's total revenue for the quarter was $6.8 billion, up 7% from the same quarter last year.

Amish OK With Critics

UPN screened Amish in the City for reporters last week, and the TV critic crowd found the program respectful of the five young Amish adults (all over 18, all from the Midwest), who took part.

The show has been the center of some controversy, with at least one member of Congress and one affiliate wanting to see it before it airs on UPN. Rep. Joe Pitts, who represents Lancaster, Pa., has been among the most vocal critics, asking for a screening copy, which UPN declined to provide.

Leslie Moonves, co-president and co-COO of Viacom, came out swinging last week, vowing that his networks would never prescreen a movie for any politician: "I don't want to be judged by a member of Congress before the show even goes on the air."

Affiliate WLYH Lancaster said it would preempt the show and screen it before deciding whether to run the series.

Reality Low on Hi-Def List

Apparently, wide-screen, crystal-clear images of maggot-eating contests and makeovers aren't high on TV watchers' wish lists. According to Lyra Research's online poll of 500 HDTV owners, reality TV came in last among programs rated in importance of their delivery in the format.

Says principal analyst Steve Hoffenberg, "The good news is that, for the time being, reality programmers can continue to save production costs by delaying the switch to HD. The bad news is that the early adopters of HD, who tend to be among the most desirable advertising targets, are less concerned about reality TV."

FTC Lays Off "Fair and Balanced"

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris sees no way for his agency to investigate the fairness or accuracy of Fox News Channel's slogan "Fair and Balanced" without getting into First Amendment territory where the commission doesn't belong. Responding to a petition by that the slogan is false advertising, he said, "There is no way to evaluate this petition without evaluating the content of the news at issue. That is a task the First Amendment leaves to the American people, not a government agency."

Soap Play-by-Play

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of drop-dead gorgeous people sleeping with their best friend's mate. That's ABC's strategy of counter-programming NBC's Olympics coverage next month. ABC's Bachelor (Bob Guiney) will "break up the bitch-slaps and give the lowdown on the love scenes," says the network. A campaign promoting its daytime dramas features Guiney with some sports-like "up-close and personal looks" at daytime's "agony of deceit."


In the 7/19 In the Loop, Fox and Outfoxed director Robert Greenwald were reported to be fighting over whether Fox was given enough time to respond to a story in The New York Times. At least on this issue, Fox says it is fighting with the Times, not with Greenwald.