NBC REVERSES DECISION TO RUN LIQUOR ADS
Just three months after NBC broke a decades-old ban on televised liquor advertisements, the network reversed its decision in March after a barrage of criticism from lawmakers and advocacy groups.
NBC said leaders of both parties in Congress asked the network to reconsider its decision to broadcast the first liquor ads since 1948, when the networks began a self-imposed ban, Reuters reported.
“We have agreed to do that. We’ve said from the beginning that we want to be responsible on this issue,” NBC said in a statement. “We are, therefore, ending the first phase of branded social responsibility advertising on our network and will not proceed into the next phase of carrying product advertising for distilled spirits.”
Liquor advertisements often are seen on local television stations and on cable, but the broadcast networks haven’t carried ads for distilled spirits in 54 years, according to Reuters.
NBC has not run any product spots, but it had carried public-service commercials featuring Smirnoff that promoted socially responsible drinking.
The Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), a trade group representing liquor makers, called the NBC decision “a temporary setback.” DISCUS charged that the reversal was partly a result of lobbying by the beer industry, which spends large sums of money on television advertising.
E.W. SCRIPPS TO OFFER FREE POLITICAL AIR TIME
E.W. Scripps Co. said its television stations would offer free air time to political candidates prior to primary and general elections again this year. During the national elections in 2000, the Scripps stations had a similar policy.
In 2000, a presidential advisory committee on public interest obligations of digital television broadcasters recommended making free air time available to candidates.
Scripps said that under its “Democracy 2002” initiative, its nine network-affiliated TV stations would provide five minutes of free air time to candidates nightly from 5 p.m. to 11:35 p.m. in the 30 days preceding this year’s general elections.
In addition, the stations will provide free air time as needed during the 30 days preceding primary elections, The Associated Press reported.
Scripps said its stations collectively reach about 10 percent of the nation’s television households.
In addition to its television stations, Scripps operates 21 daily newspapers and three cable TV channels, Home & Garden Television, Food Network and Do It Yourself Network.
PUBLICATIONS ACCUSED OF DISCRIMINATION
A top editor who was ousted from the New York Post in February has filed a federal complaint accusing the newspaper of discriminating against women and Americans in its selection of senior news executives.
Maralyn Matlick said she was fired because management wanted to promote British or Australian males, rather than Americans and women, The Associated Press reported. As Sunday editor, Matlick was the Post’s highest-ranking female editorial staff member.
In a complaint filed March 12 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Matlick sought reinstatement, back pay and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Meanwhile, two women have charged that The Atlantic Monthly discriminates against prospective interns because of age. Susan Wozniak, 54, and Joanna Jackson, 41, both filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the state’s antidiscrimination agency.
Jackson received a letter from internship coordinator Lucie Prinz, which said, “We are simply unable to accept people who are older because our interns work very closely together and it won’t work if they are of very different ages or stages in their lives.”
Jackson, who went to college after raising her four children, filed her complaint with MCAD in February. She said she is not seeking monetary damages, but rather a chance to be evaluated on her merits and a clear nondiscriminatory policy from the elite Boston-based magazine of politics, culture, and literature.
Last year, Susan Wozniak said The Atlantic Monthly refused to consider her internship application because she was 53 at the time. She filed a similar complaint with MCAD.
Wozniak said she was told in two meetings with Prinz that her age didn’t fit the guidelines of the internships, which typically go to college students in their 20s, The Boston Globe reported.
MCAD documents show that the agency accepted Wozniak’s claim and scheduled a hearing for Jan. 17, 2001, but no one from the magazine attended. The MCAD has not taken any action since then, Wozniak said.
NEWSPAPERS NOT REPLACING JOBS
Despite reports of an improving economy, publishers are not replacing positions that were cut during the past year.
While an advertising recovery still may be months away, it’s almost certain that – barring another economic or political shock – advertising dollars will start to flow back into newspaper budgets in the near future, Editor & Publisher reported in March.
However, chains that made cutbacks last year now are feeling pressure to improve their profit margins and will continue to operate with fewer people – even when the economy improves.
Knight Ridder Chairman and CEO Tony Ridder said most of the jobs cut companywide last year, a 10 percent slice, won’t be restored.
Pulitzer Inc., which trimmed full-time equivalents (FTEs) by 2.8 percent last year, said a “good number” of those reductions would be permanent.
Dow Jones & Co. Inc. said that, for the most part, it would not replace the roughly 500 full-time employees, or 6 percent of its work force, that it cut last year.
Media General Inc. said some of the 5 percent cuts made last year were permanent, and the company plans to continue its hiring freeze as long as conditions remain difficult.
ATLANTIC MONTHLY TO RUN 60,000-WORD SERIES
The Atlantic Monthly plans to run the longest piece of journalism it has ever published, and one of the longest in magazine history, The New York Times reported.
The article, “American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center,” by staff correspondent William Langewiesche will run 60,000 words and stretch over three consecutive issues, starting with July/August 2002.
The series beats by 5,000 words the previous Atlantic record holder – Robert A. Caro’s two-part, 55,000-word deconstruction of Lyndon B. Johnson, which was published in October 1981 and April 1982.
“It’s hugely rare for magazines to do this, but it’s seriously rare for us,” said Michael Kelly, The Atlantic’s editor in chief.
Langewiesche spent more than five months at the World Trade Center site, where he had complete access to meetings, files and ground zero, Kelly said.
In October, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Langewiesche’s publisher, will release a book of the same name under its North Point Press imprint.
A former professional pilot who has written for The Atlantic the past 12 years, Langewiesche said the articles and book would be about the culture inside the perimeter as much as the mechanics of cleaning up the most horrific disaster zone in American history.
PAPERS DROP FINANCIAL LISTINGS
It’s a new kind of stock split, The Wall Street Journal reported in March: Financial tables are disappearing from a number of newspapers.
As the industry’s ad slump continues, large and small papers are cutting back or eliminating the listings, which have been a staple of news pages for a century.
The problem with the financial listings is that the columns of tiny type fill page after page of expensive newsprint and yet rarely draw ads.
This year, Tribune Co.’s Newsday, on Long Island, N.Y., dropped 1,000 stocks and 1,000 mutual funds from its daily listings. Advance Publications Inc.’s Plain Dealer in Cleveland cut 1,250 stocks and 1,200 mutual funds from its daily tables. And Gannett Co.’s Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., eliminated all of its daily mutual fund listings.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from papers that have said, ‘I want to take stocks out of the paper,’” says Randy Picht, director of the Associated Press’s Markets Information Group, which provides financial tables to 920 U.S. newspapers.
Because stock-table enthusiasts tend to be over age 55, the demographic group most loyal to newspapers, publishers are hoping that they won’t lose their subscribers.
Reaction to the pared financial listings has been mixed, with some newspapers reporting no complaints and others reinstating the listings after receiving numerous calls, e-mails and letters.
COURT STRIKES DOWN CROSS-OWNERSHIP BAN
In a long-awaited decision, a federal appeals court in February struck down the cable-broadcast cross-ownership ban.
The ban has prohibited companies from owning a cable-system and local broadcast station in the same market. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia set aside the cable rule “because we think it unlikely the commission will be able on remand to justify retaining it.”
The court stated that FCC regulations that had prevented one company from owning TV stations and cable franchises in the same market no longer served the public interest, according to a February article in the online edition of Forbes magazine.
The cross-ownership rules thrown out by the court have their roots in the 1970s, when regulators wanted to protect the fledgling cable companies from being snapped up by the powerful broadcasters, The Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, although ownership limits on television broadcasters narrowly survived a court challenge, the court ordered the Federal Communications Commission to decide whether to modify or retain a prohibition barring television broadcasters from owning stations that, combined, reach more than 35 percent of the national television audience.
“We have concluded that, although the rule is not unconstitutional, the Commission’s decision to retain it was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law because the Commission failed to give an adequate reason for its decision,” said a three-judge panel.
Edward Fritts, head of the National Association of Broadcasters, said the ownership cap was “critically important” to preserve the network-affiliate relationship and “this rule has been instrumental in promoting localism and diversity.”
Industry experts say an end to the rules, designed to promote competition and diversity in media voices, could set the stage for a wave of consolidation in both the television and cable industries, Reuters reported.
BOOK DESTROYED AFTER LIBEL SUIT THREAT
Publisher HarperCollins has taken the rare step of destroying its inventory of a new book, fearing a potential libel suit.
James A. Fox, vice president and general counsel of HarperCollins, conceded in a letter to James J. Cramer’s lawyer that three pages of the book, “Trading With the Enemy,” by Nicholas W. Maier, contained false assertions that Cramer had traded on inside information about Western Digital Corp. Cramer is a journalist and former hedge fund manager.
A spokeswoman for HarperCollins said the company would destroy the roughly 4,000 copies of “Trading With the Enemy” that it has in stock, The New York Times reported.
HarperCollins shipped 10,000 copies of the book beginning in the middle of February. The company will send an errata notice to bookstores and reviewers correcting the text and will reprint new copies without the erroneous pages.
However, the spokesman said that HarperCollins, a division of the News Corporation, stood by the remainder of the book and planned to continue promoting it when the new copies became available.
HarperCollins’s retraction is the latest development in a media battle over the book by Maier, a disgruntled young former employee of the hedge fund company that Cramer used to run.
Cramer occupies an unusual position at the juncture of the financial and media industries, according to The Times. For decades, he was one of the best known and most outspoken money managers on Wall Street.
He also has often worked as a journalist and television commentator and now appears as a commentator on CNBC. Last year, Cramer gave up managing the hedge fund to devote himself full time as a columnist for the financial news Web site TheStreet.com, of which he is a co-founder.