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CNN Regrets Query-Rigging

During CNN's youthful "Rock the Vote" debate with Democratic presidential hopefuls Nov. 4, the candidates got a sanitized version of the famous 1994 "boxers or briefs?" inquiry when a Brown University student asked, "PC or Macs?"

No hardball question for sure. After getting panned by fellow students, though, freshman Alexandra Trustman lashed out at CNN in the school paper, saying she intended to ask a more complicated question on technology use but a producer modified it "because it wasn't lighthearted enough." At the debate, she was handed a notecard with the producer's cheeky question about computers.

Said a CNN spokesperson, "In an attempt to encourage a lighthearted moment a producer working with Ms. Trustman clearly went too far. CNN regrets the producer's actions."—A.R.

Ellen Draws Money Demo

Warner Bros.'The Ellen DeGeneres Show may not be the highest-rated talk show on daytime TV, but it does attract daytime's richest audience, Warner Bros.' goal for the show from the start. According to Nielsen's Npower Index,
Ellen indexes higher than such daytime powerhouses as King World's The Oprah Winfrey Show and
Dr. Phil
in households with incomes of $60,000+, $75,000+ and $100,000+. Among daytime's key women 18-49 demo,
also serves an upscale audience, indexing as the second-highest talk/variety show behind
Dr. Phil
among women with incomes $75,000+ and behind Buena Vista's
Live With Regis and Kelly among women with incomes $60,000+.

Mad About TV In Madison, Wis

The National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, Wis., drew some big names, including Democratic FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, activist Ralph Nader, comedian Al Franken, and PBS's Bill Moyers. Moyers provided a ringing keynote in which he called the battle against deregulation a "struggle for the soul of Democracy." One of the targets of media reformers has been Sinclair and its "centralcasting" local-news strategy. So how did Sinclair's Fox affiliate, WMSN-TV Madison, cover the story? Actually, the station doesn't produce its own newscasts. That's done by ABC affiliate WKOW-TV through a news-sharing agreement. According to a news staffer there, WKOW-TV sent a reporter and crew, which provided a minute-and-a-half "nuts-and-bolts" piece for both station's newscasts.—J.E.

Allen Buys Charter—Again

Paul Allen (left) keeps paying for Charter Communications. SEC filings show that Vice Chairman and ex-Falcon Cable CEO Marc Nathanson recently exercised options obligating Allen to buy his stock for $247 million, or $30.88 a share—about seven times the $4 price. When Allen was on a cable-buying spree in 1999, Nathanson was one of several operators who sold out for Charter stock but got "put" options from Allen personally, locking in their price. As Charter's stock has plunged amid financial and accounting scandals, Allen has had to pay top dollar. One industry executive notes, though, that Allen paid for half of Falcon in Charter stock. "So it's not costing Paul any more than the original deal did." His $7 billion cash investment is now worth $1.3 billion.—J.M.H.

NAB Quiets Unhappy Vendors

Last year's NAB convention was the first to take advantage of the vast expanse known as the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall, a space so deep that some exhibitors in the back were less than thrilled with the seemingly endless walk (and endless complaints from foot-weary customers). This year, some of those tenants—notably SGI, IBM and Thomson—have had their booths moved forward in the hall, an important step by NAB to make sure they're happy. Thomson VP Laura Barber Miller says she's hopeful things will change given the new location but, if the situation is as bad as it was last year the company will consider other options for 2005, including exhibiting in a hotel like Mandalay Bay. "We were told last year that we would be an anchor tenant, and we were," says Barber Miller. "We were like an anchor at the bottom of the ocean."—K.K.