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Pax Heads Southwest

Pax TV is producing an original movie for May sweeps called Secret Agent Mom, starring Janine Turner (pictured). Doing the heavy production lifting will be Canada-based Toronto Entertainment. No surprise there: Numerous companies have fled the country, chasing cheaper production dollars north of the border. So where is Toronto shooting the show? Surprise! Albuquerque, N.M. According to a network source, Pax got a better-than-Canada offer from the city, which, having had some success attracting theatrical production, is trying to attract series TV as well. Of course, Secret Agent Mom
isn't a series, but it could become one if it connects with viewers, said the source.—J.E.

A, Um, Hissy Fit Over Ownership

Backbiting over recent media-ownership hearings characterizes the internal dogfight that is preceding a final vote on proposed rule changes. The latest sniping targets Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. Deregulation supporters say those commissioners exaggerate the potential impact of ownership changes. For example, in a release publicizing a citizen's hearing last Friday in Seattle, the duo said today's rules still stop "a single corporation from dominating" TV markets, but suggest any more loosening of rules will remove obstacles .

Similar gripes have plagued nearly all hearings so far. Chairman Michael Powell suffered criticism that too little time was allotted for "open mike" citizen input at the Richmond, Va., hearing. That complaint stung because he had originally slated two hours for individuals to speak out and was forced to cut back to fit in scheduled witnesses. Some deregulation foes also questioned the choice of moderator Thomas Krattenmaker, author of a 1980 FCC study urging deregulation of rules governing ownership and network/affiliate relations.—B.M.

Ad Taxes Get Hard Look

With the vast majority of states having both budget shortfalls and requirements that they balance their budgets, creative tax strategies could spell trouble for the ad industry.

For example, according to the American Advertising Federation, the Connecticut legislature has passed a short-term deficit-reduction bill that includes a 3% tax on ad-production services.

Meanwhile, in Kansas this week, the legislature will hold a hearing on a bill that would extend the sales tax to services, including the sale of ad time and space.

Florida passed such a law a few years back but eventually overturned it after loud protest from numerous quarters.—J.E.

HDTV Hoops

NBA TV plans to air some playoff action in HDTV. Last week, it televised its second game in high-definition, but, once again, it was available only to DBS subs. The NBA All-Star game was available to some HDTV cable subs, but the NBA and cable operators are still wrangling over carriage of regular-season HDTV telecasts. NBA TV executives couldn't give specifics on when a deal may be completed, but said they're assured they'll get it done.—K.K.

TV Is Taking Off

While U.S. media mavens continue to debate just how far along the ad recovery is, the global TV ad sector appears to be back in the pink. A hot-off-the-presses report from Initiative Media projects that, on a worldwide basis, TV ad spending will climb to $134 billion this year and, for the first time, claim half the world's ad volume. "In terms of media," Initiative says, "TV will drive global growth." The agency's own assessment of the recovery: It's ongoing, with this year representing the first shot at "true growth [4.5%] since 2000." And 2004 will be even better.—S.M.