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Azteca Adds Newscasts

Azteca America is adding two home-grown national newscasts, its first, starting today. Both will be produced out of a studio in Washington and replace the general-interest news imported from parent TV Azteca's two Mexican TV channels. A "current events news/ talk" half-hour, Polemica y Debate, is planned but has been postponed.

For now, Azteca America's 29 stations will get an hour newscast at 6 p.m. (ET/PT) and a half-hour at 10:30 p.m. Polemica
will air at 10 p.m. Both it and the 6 p.m. news will be hosted by Armando Guzman, onetime Washington correspondent for Univision, and a woman co-anchor to be named. Co-anchors for the late news also had yet to be named at press time.—J.E.

CNN: The Cello & News Network

So, can Bill O'Reilly play the oboe or something? Last Thursday night, sometime after 8 p.m. ET on CNN's Paula Zahn Now, while most of us were probably dozing off after Thanksgiving dinner, the anchor made Zahn CNN debut as a cellist, joining Ana Aznavoorian of the International Sejong Soloists as the second soloist in Vivaldi's "Concerto for Two Cellos in G Minor."

Zahn has had the 14-member group on her news shows before but has always hung back to listen. We expect she held her own on Thanksgiving Day: Her cello excellence earned her a scholarship to Stephens College in Columbia, Mo.—P.J.B.

Stars Come Out for NATPE Parties

It's unlikely NATPE will ever return to its former excess, but several syndicators are gearing up to throw some lavish parties for the upcoming gathering. Both Sony Pictures Television and King World are hosting private dinners. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld will perform at Sony's shindig, while King World is lining up top-name talent for its event. Other celebs expected to show up at NATPE next month: the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond
(below), Kiefer Sutherland of Fox's 24, and NBC's Jane Pauley. "From the point of view of the broadcast and cable communities, NATPE is gaining momentum again," says Sony's Executive VP of Sales John Weiser.—P.A.

PBS Plans Holiday HD Loop

For HDTV owners, the PBS HD loop of programming is both a blessing and a curse. The nearly continuous offering produced by PBS member stations provides the only over-the-air signal that has HD content 24 hours a day, making it ideal for HD demos or for the need to get an HD fix at 3:30 a.m. After a few days or weeks, though, the viewer has seen all the content at least once, most likely multiple times. As a result, expect PBS's HD viewers to be happy next week when the monotony ends Dec. 8. PBS will offer new content (much of it holiday-based) and begin testing a system that will eventually lead to more fresh programming from PBS HD next year.—K.K.

IRTS Mirthmakers

The Dec. 11 holiday luncheon sponsored annually by the International Radio and Television Society has a silly twist this year. Top ad buyers and sellers will form an ensemble for a holiday revue. The "ad-actors" are Discovery's Joe Abruzzese, MediaVest's Mel Berning, MagnaGlobal USA's Larry Blasius, Initiative's Alec Gerster, Zenith's Peggy Green, Interep's Ralph Guild, MediaCom's Jon Mandel (left), Petry's Tim McAuliff, OMD's Debbie Richman, NBC's Keith Turner and ABC's John Watkins. IRTS President Joyce Tudryn says some other surprising names are likely. A new holiday tradition? Well, if not, just get drunk.—P.J.B.