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Fast Track

NAB Wants Rehr For Top Job

Beer Wholesalers' chief may replace Fritts

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) continues to push hard for Disney/ABC lobbyist Mitch Rose to replace Eddie Fritts as president of the National Association of Broadcasters, but the NAB search committee appears to have settled on K Street-connected Republican David Rehr, president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Rose, VP, government relations, for Disney, is Stevens' former chief of staff, a fellow Alaskan and a member of his “kitchen cabinet.” “We completely trust Mitch and his judgment,” says Lisa Sutherland, majority staff director for the committee. “The relationship between Ted Stevens and Mitch Rose is one of family: deep and abiding.”

The NAB could certainly use some deep and abiding help from Stevens. Broadcasters are in a pitched battle with cable over the issue of mandatory carriage of a broadcaster's DTV multicast channels, not to mention the emergency-communications issue and possible payola inquiries stemming from BMG's admission that it paid for radio play.

With House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) opposed to multicast carriage, Stevens' bill is broadcasters' best hope.

Fritts' replacement is expected to be picked by the end of October and could even be announced as soon as next week's Radio Show in Philadelphia. NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton says that, until the selection is made, the association will have no comment. —John Eggerton

Telecom Draft Would Boost Bells

Telcos would get streamlined franchise

Telephone companies and cable overbuilders would get a streamlined franchise process, according to a draft of a new telecom bill issued by the House Commerce Committee last week.

New broadband-video entrants would be able to bypass individual franchise negotiations and start video service in a market where cable operators are subjected to a franchising fee of 5% of gross revenues.

The cable industry is trying to figure out the 70-page opus but has been fighting against fast-tracking telcos to franchises it had to fight for town by town.

The telcos recently won this battle in Texas, which has adopted a state franchising regime for broadband video, and bills introduced in Congress would allow state or even nationwide franchises.

The draft is only a starting point, however, and a Senate version is a month away. If the draft does evolve into a bill, the cable industry will retaliate with a firestorm of protect.

The draft bill establishes the FCC's regulatory control over broadband Internet transmission services (BITS), and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), as well as broadband video service. —John Eggerton

Katrina Concert Tally: $30M

Preliminary tallies from phone and online contributions indicate that Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, the telethon produced by the six broadcast networks that blanketed the airwaves Sept. 9, raised an estimated $30 million for American Red Cross and Salvation Army efforts to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Final national Nielsen ratings for the broadcast networks, public television and domestic cable outlets also indicate that approximately 23 million Americans tuned into the one-hour special, with more than 38.3 million viewers watching at least part of it.—Jim Benson

New Bureaus In New Orleans

In a sign that news networks are planning a long stay in New Orleans, all say they will open bureaus there— either permanently or indefinitely.

CNN plans to open a fully operational bureau in downtown New Orleans, called “CNN Gulf Coast,” and will soon move equipment, correspondents, photojournalists and a production crew to the new location. The cable news network currently operates 10 within the U.S. and 26 elsewhere around the world. FNC said it will continue to have an increased presence in the Gulf, and said calling it a bureau is “just a formality.”

The NBC bureau will be headed by Southeast bureau chief Frieda Morris, who will be joined by rotating crews and reporters. NBC will operate the bureau in conjunction with local affiliate Hearst-Argyle-owned WDSU. Over the past two weeks, some NBC News crews have been using the WDSU facility as a base. The first NBC reporter staffed to the bureau will be Martin Savidge. Investigative reporter Lisa Myers is also expected to spend time working there.

“We have an enormous presence in Louisiana and the region and will for a long time to come,” an ABC spokeswoman said. “We are in the process of moving into a more permanent workspace in New Orleans.” CBS said its bureau will stay for the foreseeable future.—Allison Romano/J.E.

Discovery Health Signs Dr. Joy Browne

Discovery Health Channel will team with Dr. Joy Browne for a live daytime TV series, a behind-the-scenes look at the author/psychologist's radio show. The Dr. Joy Browne Show will run on Discovery Health weekdays at 1 p.m. on both the East and West Coasts with rebroadcasts at 5 p.m., capitalizing on the network's new dual feed. The hour-long show will begin five minutes before the second hour of Browne's syndicated noon-3 p.m. relationship advice show on the WOR Radio Network, allowing viewers to get an advance opportunity to call with questions on the topics in that segment. Discovery Health, which was up 54% in total viewership over last summer, aims to capture a female audience with the show and build on the successful baby-themed programming that currently dominates its daytime lineup. Discovery Health, currently available in 59 million homes, averaged 146,000 total viewers this summer.—Anne Becker

Kaitz Fete Raises $1.5 Million

The 1,600 attendees at the cable industry's annual Kaitz Foundation Dinner in New York ponied up $1.5 million for diversity grants.

That was up 9% from $1.4 million the year before and came from the purchase of tables and tickets to the dinner, as well as other donations. The industry was also asked to match its diversity dollars with money for a new Cable Hope Fund launched Sept. 7 by the Cable Telecommunications & Information Association to aid the cable employees whose homes and loved ones had been affected by Hurricane Katrina.

It is already a third of the way there. Hope Fund envelopes were placed at every table, and Comcast's Brian Roberts (a Kaitz Dinner and Hope Fund co-chair) announced that $500,000 has been raised for the fund so far.—J.E.

HBO To Return To 'Rome'

HBO picked up a second season of epic drama Rome, which debuted to solid ratings and critical acclaim Aug. 28. The 12-episode second season of the series, a co-production with the BBC, is slated to hit the pay cable network in fall 2007, with production beginning in March.

Rome's premiere notched a 9.1 rating/13 share in HBO homes for its premiere episode. That made it the network's highest-rated program since the fourth-season premiere of Six Feet Under in June 2004.

Six Feet's series finale the week before, however, attracted more total viewers than Rome: 3.89 million versus 3.81 million, respectively.

HBO invested a hefty $100 million in the first season of the show and launched what the network called its biggest-ever campaign for viewers for a new series.—A.B.

Emmy Creates New Awards, Prizes

The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is creating three International Interactive Emmy awards and a Pioneer Prize to be presented at MIPTV 2006, in partnership with festival organizer Reed MIDEM (the trade-show wing of the company that owns B&C).

Slated for April 5, 2006, the presentation will mark the first Emmy Awards ceremony held outside the U.S. Deadline for entries is Oct. 31.

The Pioneer Prize is not an Emmy but a special initiative of the academy to honor innovative contributions to the field of interactive television.—J.B.

New York Times Co. Snaps Up KAUT

Viacom is selling off another midsize-market UPN station, cutting a deal with New York Times Co. for UPN KAUT Oklahoma City. New York Times already owns KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, Nielsen's 45th-largest TV market. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter pending FCC approval, were not disclosed.

New York Times says it will add local news, weather and sports coverage to KAUT, although it did not specify whether that would be repeats of KFOR product or programming produced specifically for the UPN station.

The KAUT deal will give New York Times its first broadcast duopoly.—A.R.

Gould Upped to VP At NBC News

NBC has promoted Cheryl Gould to senior VP at NBC News. In her new role, she will work with recently named acting News President Steve Capus on day-to-day management issues.

Gould has served as a VP at CNBC since 2001, working with prime time and weekend program development. She also coordinated political and Afghan-war coverage between NBC News and CNBC.

She has held the title of VP, NBC News, since 1993.—Joel Meyer

MSG Sponsors Katrina Concert

Cablevision Systems is spearheading a benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Katrina, hoping to fill its Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.

The proceeds of both tickets and a $20 pay-per-view cable promotion will got to various relief funds. “Big Apple to the Big Easy” will feature performers including Simon & Garfunkel, Jimmy Buffett, Elton John, Elvis Costello, John Fogerty, plus New Orleans natives the Neville Brothers and the Meters.—John M. Higgins

McCain Blasts Broadcasters

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took aim at broadcasters from the Senate floor Tuesday over the issue of Katrina communications failures, saying they should be forced to give their analog spectrum back by the end of next year.

McCain has long criticized the pace of transitioning to DTV in order to reclaim analog spectrum for first-responders in an emergency.

“Let's remember that Congress provided additional spectrum for first responders in the Telecommunications Act of 1996,” he said. “So, after spending millions of dollars in funding and additional spectrum for our nation's first responders, why aren't we better off than we were on 9/11 when it comes to interoperable communications? Because the spectrum Congress provided to first responders in 1996 is being held hostage by television broadcasters even though broadcasters have been given new spectrum.”

Former Commerce Committee Chairman McCain argued for action on the Save Lives Act, a bill he introduced with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) that would return analog spectrum by Jan. 1, 2009. But he said that, given the hurricane problems, he wanted to amend that to Jan. 1, 2007.—J.E.