Walsh, Cable Vets Back New Net Serving ‘Justice’

John Walsh, a founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and host of America’s Most Wanted for 25 years, has said AMW helped recover 61 missing kids alive and aided authorities in capturing nearly 1,300 fugitives. His show on CNN, The Hunt, which profiles wanted criminals, returns in season-one reruns starting in March and will premiere season two sometime in the third quarter.

Reruns of The Hunt get results: Last summer, police killed a suspected sex offender in New York in a shootout that left three cops seriously injured after the suspect’s episode re-aired. That was The Hunt’s first interception, he said, but not the last. “We caught four people off those eight shows,” he said.

He hopes to make an impact, too, as onair spokesman for Justice Network, which launched Jan. 20 using digital spectrum held by Gannett Broadcasting stations. CEO Steve Schiffman, the former head of National Geographic Channel, said the channel will soon have a presence in 40% of the country, including pending deals with independent stations in markets including New York and Philadelphia.

Walsh is featured in interstitial messages on Justice Network asking viewers to help find missing children and track down wanted criminals. “Nobody in the huge universe of television shows pictures of missing children” on a regular basis, Walsh said, and that opportunity drew him in.

Every hour, Justice Network airs three 30-second interstitials: one is about a missing child, another is about a wanted fugitive and a third is a safety message, Schiffman said.

That 90 seconds per hour of original fare — run between library episodes of such former Court TV and truTV programs as Body of Evidence, The Investigators and L.A. Forensics — gives Justice Network “a very clear and dedicated societal message” separating it from other programmers seeking distribution via broadcasters’ digital spectrum, Schiffman said.

One show Justice Network bought, Alaska State Troopers, was green-lighted by Schiffman at Nat Geo. “I might be the first former cable network president to actually buy his own content in the secondary market,” he told The Wire.

Walsh and the Justice Network management — including former Nat Geo programming colleague John Ford — hope to expand their partnership into new reality shows in a year or two, should Justice Network survive and Walsh is no longer bound by an exclusive arrangement with CNN.

Walsh thinks that will happen. “I think this is a concept that might really work in the multicast world,” he said.

Net Neutrality Backers Target Lawmakers for Taking Comcast’s Cash

Liberal group Demand Progress makes no bones about its dislike of Comcast or that company’s opposition to Title II reclassification of broadband providers as common carriers — a stance in which the cable giant is joined by almost all of its telecom peers, large or small, wired or wireless.

In an e-mail slugged “effing Comcast,” the group also took aim at Republicans on Capitol Hill for the financial support they have received from the cable operator.

Demand Progress said it wants to raise enough money to raise billboards in the home districts of House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to point out that Comcast is the No. 1 and No. 2 donor, respectively, to their most recent re-election campaigns and that both lawmakers oppose Title II. Both legislators support a bill that would block Title II reclassification.

But the top donor to Walden was the National Association of Broadcasters — it was No. 2 for Upton — and the NAB has not taken a position on Title II.

In fact, Comcast executives are generally as likely to be slammed for being too close to President Obama — the main force pushing for Title II — given that some top Comcast officials, including CEO Brian Roberts and executive vice president David Cohen, are Obama supporters.

A Comcast spokesperson pointed out that the company gives to Democrats, too. “Our PAC and employees are also donors to [Sen.] Edward Markey [D-Mass.], [Rep. Anna] Eshoo [DCalif.], [Sen. Corey] Booker [D-N.J.] too — all people who want Title II.”

Broadcasters and cable operators, unsurprisingly, contribute to deregulatory legislators who support their positions, though Demand Progress suggested that money does the talking.

A spokesperson for Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee had no comment on the campaign to billboard Comcast’s financial support.

Demand Progress is one of the groups that last month launched 535 separate websites, one for each member of the House and Senate, to identify where they stand on Title II.

— John Eggerton

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.