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Fast Track

House Scales Back CPB Cuts

The House Appropriations Committee last week restored the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's forward funding for FY2008, at the full $400 million it had asked for. But the cut of $100 million from FY2006's $400 million was not restored. Neither was the eliminated $23.3 million grant for Ready to Learn (RTL) kids programming, $39.4 million to help with the digital transition, and $39.6 million for interconnection equipment.

The restoration of the $400 million for 2008 was thanks to an amendment to a larger appropriations bill introduced by ranking Democrat David Obey of Wisconsin, who said he hoped the other cuts would also be restored when the bill is considered next week by the full House.

CPB's advance funding was meant to be some insulation from the politics of having to go to Congress every year with tin cup in hand. Zeroing out Ready to Learn was seen as a signal of Republican displeasure with RTL's Postcards From Buster episode featuring lesbian parents and the perception that PBS kids programming in general was not sufficiently grounded in basic language and math skills.—J.E.

Viacom Board Approves Spinoff

Viacom's board of directors unanimously approved a plan to split the company into two parts.

The company says it will spin off the bulk of its operations into a new company to be called CBS Corp. That unit will include the CBS network and stations, Paramount and King World television production and syndication units; Infinity radio, Viacom Outdoor; Showtime; and publisher Simon & Schuster.

Viacom Inc. will have the faster-growing business units, including MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures.

Viacom Chairman/CEO and controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone will be chairman of both companies when they're divided early next year but will no longer be CEO.

Tom Freston will become CEO of Viacom, while Les Moonves will become CEO of CBS Corp. Viacom expects to spend more than six months securing regulatory approval of the deal.—J.M.H.

Madden Jumps To NBC

John Madden is joining NBC as analyst for its new Sunday Night Football package, and, if NBC gets its way, his current Monday Night Football broadcast partner Al Michaels may not be far behind.

Madden signed a six-year deal aligning with the network's six-year package to begin airing in 2006. He will make the jump from ABC's Monday Night Football after the 2005 season, when MNF moves to ESPN as Sunday nights go from ESPN to NBC.—B.G./J.B.

Cameras Still Banned In New York Courts

The New York State Court of Appeals has decided not to overturn a 1952 state law banning cameras in trial courts in the state.

Court TV had challenged the law as unconstitutional in oral arguments before the court April 27.

The appeals court pointed to various precedents in which other courts had ruled that the press had the same right of access to attend a trial as a member of the public but no additional right to bring cameras into the court.

It also pointed out that the New York State legislature had tested cameras in the court four times, reviewed the findings and reports, all of which recommended allowing the cameras, and then voted all four times to continue to exclude them, despite “the technological improvements to audiovisual equipment which renders its presence in courtrooms less intrusive.”

“We will not circumscribe the authority constitutionally delegated to the legislature,” the court said.

Though disappointed, Court TV was also buoyed by the court's suggestion that it was “more properly remedied by the legislature.”

Currently, 39 states allow TV coverage of criminal trials.—J.E.

Bill Fine Moves To WCVB

WBAL Baltimore President/GM Bill Fine is returning to his native Boston to run sister station WCVB. Both are owned by Hearst-Argyle Television.

On Aug. 1, Fine will take over as general manager from Paul La Camera, a longtime station veteran who is currently president/GM. He will remain president until the end of the year, when he will retire and Fine will take that title as well. Hearst-Argyle says La Camera will remain a consultant for its station group.

This will be Fine's second tour at WCVB. He served as VP/general sales manager from 1996 to 1998, when he moved to WBAL. That station's general sales manager, Jordan Wertlieb, will take over as general manager.

PBS Adds Ombudsman

Following in the footsteps of other public-broadcasting entities and many print publications, PBS will hire an ombudsman.

National Public Radio has employed an ombudsman since 2000, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting added a pair in April.

The latter move has drawn criticism from some quarters because the use of ombudsmen to investigate audience complaints about programming and to pursue their own reviews of editorial standards come amid charges of the politicizing of public broadcasting under CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson.

Depending on who's critiquing, public broadcasting suffers from either a liberal bias in need of balancing or unjustified interference from GOP lawmakers trying to remake it in a conservative model.—J.E

News Corp. To Buy Back Stock

News Corp. says it will spend up to $3 billion buying back its own stock. The company plans to repurchase both Class A and supervoting Class B shares. Most of the more powerful shares are controlled by News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch.—J.M.H.

'48 Hours' Names Senior Producer

Judy Tygard, a longtime Emmy-winning 48 Hours producer, has been named senior producer of 48 Hours Mystery. She replaces Katie Boyle, who has moved over to be senior broadcast producer at The Early Show.

'West' Wins Big

TNT's Steven Spielberg-produced limited series, Into the West, the network's most expensive production ever, earned a hefty 9.59 million viewers over back-to-back airings of its premiere episode Friday, June 10. The 8 p.m. ET showing earned 6.47 million total viewers and a 4.0 household rating; the 10 p.m. rerun, 3.12 million total viewers.

Grossman Joins B&C in L.A.

Ben Grossman has joined B&C's Los Angeles bureau as associate editor, working in tandem with Bureau Chief Jim Benson.

Among other positions in the communications business, Grossman is a veteran of TV Guide and The Sports Business Daily. At B&C, he can be reached at (323) 965-5318.

“Having worked closely with Ben when I was at TV Guide, I know how media-savvy he is,” says Editor in Chief J. Max Robins. “It's a pleasure to welcome him to the B&C team.”

KATV at Murrows: Take 2 KATV Rolls at Murrows

KATV Little Rock, Ark., took home two Edward R. Murrow Awards—the most of any station—for overall excellence in small-market television and for documentary work when the Radio-Television News Directors Association handed out its top prizes for excellence in electronic journalism June 13.

WTAE Pittsburgh was recognized for overall excellence in large-market television.

For continuing coverage, WABC(TV) New York won for large markets, and KLAS Las Vegas won for small.

In national investigative reporting, NPR won on the radio side, and NBC's Dateline among TV networks.

For investigative reporting, KIRO Seattle won for large-market stations, while WATE Knoxville, Tenn., won for small markets.

WHO Des Moines, Iowa, was honored for feature reporting and videography, while WTHR Indianapolis won in news documentary and news series.

NBC News led the national news outlets with four awards, but CBS News won two awards, one for overall excellence and the other for radio. ABC News' World News Tonight was also a winner of a single award. ABC News Radio took three, including overall excellence in radio news.

Among cable networks, MTV News won for news documentary, ESPN for feature reporting and CNN for writing.—A.R.