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In the Loop

Lifetime-Plus Contracts

TV news talent represented by the late Conrad Shadlen are objecting to their continued representation by the firm, with litigation possible from both sides. The broadcasters have been told that Shadlen's death in April did not end their relationship with The Conrad Shadlen Corp., now run by Shadlen's sister and corporation President Wendy Roberts. Rob Jordan, who has worked for agent Ken Lindner and now runs his own talent agency, has been hired by the corporation to serve the clients. The clients say they want to pick their own representation.

The talent agreements are tough to break and require fees to be paid on all extensions, renewals and substitutions of any contract negotiated by the Shadlen corporation. "It's like Conrad is reaching beyond the grave to control my professional life," said one client. "To get out of this relationship, I would have to leave [my present employer]."

Clients have been told by attorneys hired by Roberts that the contracts will be enforced. Shadlen had three other client representatives working for him in the late 1990s until all went their separate ways. One, Greg Willinger, began his own talent agency and purchased the bulk of Shadlen's practice.—P.A.

Finding Ellen

Warner Bros. Domestic Television's new syndie talker The Ellen DeGeneres Show
is getting a lot of promotion from an unexpected source: Disney. Finding Nemo, Disney's most recent venture with computer-generated animator Pixar, has moviegoers talking about DeGeneres's hilarious turn as a lion-hearted fish long on loyalty but short on short-term memory. The movie is doing huge numbers, raking in $150 million in its first 12 days in U.S. theaters. With her new show launching in the fall, the additional promotion is like getting co-op dollars from the competition. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. could use some similar publicity for its other daytime project, The Sharon Osbourne Show. The third season of MTV's The Osbournes
premiered last week to a total audience of 3.5 million viewers, a 26% drop from the second season's premiere audience of 4.4 million.—P.A.

NAB Seeks Sat-TV Curbs

The National Association of Broadcasters today is asking the FCC to set strict deadlines for satellite TV provider DirecTV's rollout of small-market local channels. NAB says the timetable should be a condition of News Corp.'s bid for the DBS provider. Petitions to block or impose conditions on News Corp.'s bid to control DirecTV are due at the FCC today. Broadcasters are skeptical of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch's pledge to offer local stations in all 210 markets "as soon as economically and technologically feasible."

Separately, the Center for Digital Democracy will ask the FCC to reject the deal on grounds that News Corp., among other things, will have power to jack up the rates his cable competitors pay for programming and will also be in a position to control the program-guide market.—B.M.

Lining Up for FX Post

Craig Erwich, Fox senior VP of drama development, has thrown his hat in the ring for Kevin Reilly's job as president of FX, sources say. Fox Broadcasting and FX are both owned by News Corp., so the job would be all in the family, and Erwich's work is already known by News Corp. top brass. Erwich is said to be joining a long line of young development execs who hope running FX will turn out as well for them as it did for Reilly, who was named president of programming (and heir apparent to Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment) at NBC last week. Prior to being upped to his current position in July 2000, Erwich was Fox's VP of current programming.—P.A.

Programmers' 50% Solution

Indie programming producers didn't make any headway with the FCC, but this week they will push Congress to set aside time for independently produced shows in network prime time as part of the Senate Commerce Committee's June 19 vote on legislation to reverse some FCC changes in broadcast-ownership rules. The Writers Guild of America is mulling an amendment that would require 50% of prime time be reserved for programming created outside networks' own studios. If the guild goes that route, Sen. Ron Wyden would be likely sponsor. Another option is a more general provision, possibly sponsored by committee Chairman John McCain, that would order the FCC to launch a proceeding exploring the need for a carve-out. The order officially spelling out the FCC's new ownership rules is said to formally reject the creative community's previous request for a 25% carve-out.—B.M.