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The week that was

McCain revives campaign-reform bill

Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.) renewed his campaign-reform effort last week, unveiling legislation that would require broadcasters to fund federal candidates' TV ad buys with spectrum fees.

His bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Russ Feingold
(D-Wis.) and Richard Durbin
(D-Ill.), also would require stations to air two hours weekly of candidate- or issue-centered programming before elections and would reduce the cost of campaign ads by giving candidates the right to buy time at the lowest rates charged to a station's high-volume customers during the previous 12 months.

Currently, stations may charge candidates the lowest rate charged any customer during the comparable time slot.

McCain acknowledged that no action will be taken this session but said he will reintroduce the plan next session.

Darkly intertaining

Broadband VOD
provider Intertainer,
realizing its lawsuit against its movie suppliers may take as long as three years to settle, is suspending operations this week.

President and CEO Jonathan Taplin will keep a minimal staff of five on for work on the lawsuit. "If you're in a business model where you lose money every time you sell a movie," says Taplin, "you need to get that right first before you can go on."

So sue me

Skeptical federal judges grilled an FCC
attorney who argued that mergers need no additional public-interest review when they comply with media-ownership limits. FCC lawyer Grey Pash
tried to make that point Friday, when the judges were mulling media advocacy groups' fight to shorten News Corp.'s two-year grace period for complying with a government order to sell either the New York Post
or one of its two New York TV stations. ...

The Consumer Electronics Association, making good on a vow to fight the FCC, has asked a federal appeals court in Washington to strike down rules requiring nearly all TV sets to be equipped with digital tuners by 2007. ...

Also, a minority advocacy group is asking the FCC
to repeal a policy requiring winners of broadcast-license auctions to pay the entire cost of construction permits upfront, even if a third party has petitioned to deny the license. The policy is particularly harmful to small businesses, says Minority Media Telecommunications Council,
because they can't get financing if their money is going to be locked up pending an FCC inquiry.

News bits

Walker, Texas Ranger, from Sony Pictures Television, will be available in syndication for weekends starting fall 2003, sources confirmed. Under the terms of the deal, stations will get eight minutes of ad time to sell, with six minutes going to national advertisers. Currently, Walker
airs on USA Network
on afternoons and weeknights and is the second-highest-rated off-net strip. ...

Last week, as Fox News
'Geraldo Rivera
was in Fredericksburg, Va., reporting from a gas station where a man had been killed by a sniper, the newsman stopped off in a nearby Hooters
restaurant and reportedly autographed the revealing shorts on some of the backsides of the famously underdressed waitresses, according to Fredericksburg's Free Lance-Star. Rivera, through a Fox spokesman said he was "honoring the requests of his adoring fans." Rivera also signed autographs at the nearby Waffle House.

The business

The Big Four broadcast TV networks boosted their prime time CPMs by an average 7.5%, Jack Myers Reports
said last week in releasing its estimates of 2002-03 upfront costs per thousand. CBS's 11% hike was the largest, followed by NBC's 8%, Fox's 7% and ABC's 5%, according to data culled from media buyers and sellers. Weblets The WB
and UPN
notched the biggest prime time increases: 14% and 13%, respectively, according to the newsletter. ...

For the first nine months of the year, Gannett's TV revenues are up 12% to $543 million and operating cash flow is up 18% to $268 million. In a conference call with investors and analysts, Gannett CEO Doug McCorkindale
last week said political spending may surpass last year's record spending.

What hallmark net has in store for holidays

The Hallmark Channel is teaming up with corporate cousin Hallmark Gold Crown Stores to promote its holiday programming. The Hallmark Keepsake Sweepstakes features cash prizes and in-store promotions for the Hallmark Channel as part of a $10 million ad campaign. During the holiday season, Hallmark will debut six holiday-themed programs, including original movies Snow Queen (left), Santa Jr., Silent Night
and A Christmas Visitor.


Two executives were misidentified in a box on page 5 of the Oct. 14 edition: Carol Fowler is vice president and news director at WBBM-TV (Viacom) Chicago; Fran Preston is vice president and station manager at WBBM-TV.