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Thinking Out of the Box, Into the Stall

If you think that everything at a trade show that could be sponsored or emblazoned with a logo already has been, think again. Word has it that an exhibitor at the upcoming Broadbandwagon-also known as this year's Western Show in Los Angeles-
offered to sponsor the restrooms at the L.A. Convention Center.

Odds are that the California Cable Television Association will nix that idea, but it sure does prompt speculation on the nature of the promo. Carved soap-logo sculptures? A dollar a flush? Cologne or talc hospitality trays? Hit the target, win a prize? OK, enough bad taste. If the promo idea ends up on the spike, it certainly won't be the first one in Western history. One recalls a hard-core adult network (now gone from the cable arena) that many years ago asked to pass out what could only be gently described as wind-up toys resembling male genitalia. CCTA took a quick pass on that one.

Comcast's regional news network, CN8: The Comcast Network, recently thought it had scored a coup when it attracted a sitting New Jersey legislator to do vacation fill-in as an on-air reporter. But buzz went sour when the local Democrats went ballistic over the gift of "free air time" to an opposition party member during the run-up to elections. CN8's director of original programming, David Shane, invited state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) to fill in for vacationing anchor Grace Hargis on the nightly newscast. Allen, who is not up for re-election, was a popular broadcast news anchor in Philadelphia. The cable net had planned for her to cover non-political news.
But Democrats immediately began criticizing the move, calling the TV gig a violation of political ethics and an attempt to raise Allen's political profile.

Allen appeared for one week, but on Oct. 23 she stepped out from in front of the green light. In a letter to the cable operation, Allen said the criticism was a sign only of Democratic lust for her legislative seat, but added the flap was diverting attention from the work of the "fine group" at CN8. Shane said he regretted Allen's decision but respected her for putting people ahead of politics.

Is greater Atlanta on its way to becoming the Mecca of weather forecasting? The Georgia metropolis and longtime home of The Weather Channel has become the operating headquarters of another sky watcher, WeatherPlus. It's in TWC's backyard, almost literally.
The HQ in Cobb County is, as they say in the South, within spittin' distance of its forerunner.

The ops center certainly wasn't sited according to its programming commitments. WeatherPlus currently creates content for cable in The Netherlands. Tom Hauff, director of international operations, said the venture sends and receives everything it needs to the Dutch operation via satellite. One of the biggest challenges? Creating content, then turning it over to editors to assure it's "culturally appropriate." Currently, an employee with a masters degree in business administration pours over the content to translate it into Dutch. Interesting job-finding the appropriate Dutch word for cumulonimbus. And yes, WeatherPlus has domestic aspirations.

Even though CBS parent Viacom Inc. is now in bed with the World Wrestling Federation, it'll probably be a cold day in hell when Dan Rather begins hyping The Rock and other WWF stars on the evening news. But it's another story at Cable News Network, where some say shameless cross-promotion of sister Time Warner companies is the norm. "If you think pro wrestlers are all insensitive hulks, you haven't met Bill Goldberg," CNN veteran Bernie Shaw gushed on Oct. 22 as he teased a segment on the World Championship Wrestling star during a
CNN & Time

episode. Following segments on DNA profiling and the investigation into the
U.S.S. Cole

bombing, CNN reporter Art Harris reported a long puff piece that attempted to humanize Goldberg. Viewers learned that Goldberg's parents divorced when he was 13; he loves kids; he's an ex-National Football League player; and he's been going out with a former dancer for eight years. Shaw closed the segment by noting that "Goldberg refuses to wrestle on Jewish holidays, and contributes to Jewish charities."
What CNN neglected to tell viewers is that parent company Time Warner Inc. also owns WCW.

"It was a mistake," said a spokeswoman, adding that CNN did plan to run a "disclaimer" during last night's
CNN & Time

airing, alerting viewers to the Time Warner connection. (CNN's Web site already has such a disclaimer after an item on the segment.)