Nextel Agrees to Half-Billion-Dollar Payout

Nextel Agrees to Half-Billion-Dollar Payout

A mystery that has been lingering since December is over. Today (Feb. 7), Nextel CEO Tim Donahue will approve a deal proposed by the FCC that gives TV stations up to $500 million for special channels the cellphone giant wants to use. Nextel, which had been playing its cards close to the vest, was given until today to accept the FCC plan. The deal means Nextel gets a chunk of frequencies used by local TV-news crews to beam live remotes back to their studios.

In return, the company must compensate the stations, write a $2.2 billion check to Uncle Sam and give some of its current cellphone spectrum back to the government. The payout to the government was part of the FCC’s final offer, floated in December, and stations were worried about hints that Nextel was going to balk at that part of the deal, torpedoing their end of the arrangement. But now Nextel’s climbing onboard.

Spinning 'Idol’

Before American Idol’s season premiere last month, Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman said that ratings could be down 10%-15% this year. Then the show opened huge, and you’ve heard nothing but giddy reports on the show’s staggering success, right? Well, despite the hype, it looks like Berman’s anticipation of a drop was prescient—though the decline isn’t as pronounced as predicted.

American Idol ratings are down 4% from last year in the lucrative 18-49 demographic. And they were down in five out of the six episodes that have aired so far this season—with the sharpest drops coming on Wednesdays against ABC freshman Lost. On Feb. 2, Idol was down 14% from the same slot in 2004.

Now that the show has moved into the actual musical phase, instead of the ridicule-the-clueless-amateurs phase, the ratings could still top last year’s if compelling characters emerge. For now, beware the entertainment media spin.

Wet T-shirt Tell-All

You’ve got to give it to the news outfit at WOIO Cleveland: They actually dreamed up a sweeps- month stunt that managed to be inspirational and yet still conjure images of women without their clothes on.

During the November sweeps, as you might recall, anchor Sharon Reed sparked headlines when she participated in a nude art project and shared the experience—along with a few fleeting glimpses of her in the buff—with viewers. Keeping her clothes on, Reed sat down last week for a heart-to-heart with a female journalist whose own wardrobe misadventures weren’t quiet so well- received by management. Reed interviewed Catherine Bosley, a former WKBN Youngstown, Ohio, anchor who lost her job last year when revealing photos surfaced on the Internet of her participating in a wet– T-shirt contest while vacationing in Florida.

But the interview wasn’t just an opportunity to match up two female journalists who’ve got some notoriety for public nudity; Reed was reporting for WOIO’s ongoing series “Shattered Lives, Second Chances.”

Bosley, it turns out, is back on the air in Youngstown—albeit on radio, doing the morning show for WYFM.

“This is a comeback story,” says Reed. And, indeed, the report didn’t include any racy images, according to News Director Steve Doerr: “The wags will be very disappointed.”

Maybe they’ll perk up for another WOIO sweeps story: how to get a beach body in 10 days.

Schieffer the Chairwarmer

From B&C, when Bob Schieffer (soon to be Dan Rather’s CBS Evening News temporary replacement) was inducted into the magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2002:

Fame has found him. It wasn’t always like that, he said, picking up his Hall of Fame award. He recalled that, three or four years after joining CBS, he was tapped to be the substitute anchor for Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News one day. He wondered aloud how he should explain himself to viewers.

A producer heard his query, raced to the typewriter and, a few minutes later, handed Schieffer his opening lines:

“Try this: 'Good evening. Walter Cronkite is on vacation. Roger Mudd is sick. Dan Rather is in Alaska. And H.V. Kaltenborn is dead. So here I am.’”