Tragedy in Roanoke

Credit: WWBT

Credit: WWBT

WDBJ reporter, cameraman shot dead – live on the air

A reporter and a cameraman were killed this morning live on the air in a Roanoke, Va. suburb Wednesday morning, leaving viewers of CBS affiliate WDBJ in shock.

Reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were doing an interview with Vicki Gardner from the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce in Moneta, Va. at 6:45 a.m. (ET) Wednesday morning outside of a local shopping mall where out of nowhere, a gunman came up and shot all three people live on the air.

Both Parker and Ward were pronounced dead. Gardner was sent to a local hospital and was in surgery.

The shooter was believed to be a former reporter the station named Vester Lee Flanagan II, who underwent the pseudonym “Bryce Williams” on-air at WDBJ. While being chased by police, Williams ranted about his former colleagues and posted video of the shooting on social media, which sent Twitter scrambling to suspend his account. He also sent a fax to ABC News, which was promptly forwarded to authorities.

Williams later was found shot with a self-inflicted gunshot wound near an expressway. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Williams was fired from WDBJ in 2013 for undisclosed reasons, but claims was fired due to a racist atmosphere at the TV station.

Footage of the video made its way online quickly. Many viewers complained about having to see the gruesome footage because both Twitter and Facebook have autoplay on by default, which automatically plays video once you arrive at the site.

WDBJ7-dot-com-generic1-jpgThe incident left colleagues at the Schurz Communications-owned TV station shocked. The news team managed to remain their composure on the air while reporting on the deaths of two of their own.

As a result of today’s incident, security is being increased around news crews. In New York City, police cleared Rockefeller Plaza where NBC’s Today show is taped. Police has also increased security around New York City’s TV stations. In Milwaukee, stations are cutting back or suspending live shots for the day. So far, no policy changes have been announced regarding Chicago stations.

On-air incidents like this are rare. But these type of attacks are on the rise – notably in the San Francisco-Oakland area, where reporters and cameraman were attacked and robbed live on the air, with one case taking place earlier this summer near downtown San Francisco (ironically, Flanagan interned at Group W’s KPIX in San Francisco, now a CBS-owned station.) Today’s on-air murder is perhaps the first in recent memory, though live televised acts of violence are nothing new – Pennsylvania treasurer Budd Dwyer’s suicide in 1987 during a news conference, for one, seen live over WPVI in Philadelphia and WPXI in Pittsburgh, and the beating of Reginald Denny during the Los Angeles Riots in 1992.

In Chicago, we’ve seen violence during Bulls championship celebrations, including hooligans destroying a car during a WMAQ live shot in 1992.

Outside of someone trying to grab WBBM-TV reporter Jay Levine’s mic during a live shot last year, there has been no serious on-air live or off-camera incidents on Chicago TV stations in recent memory, despite the city’s growing violent reputation in outside circles (“Chiraq”.)

WDBJ made news recently when the station was fined $320,000 by the FCC for indecency as a male organ from a porn website wound up on the air due to an editing error.  The fine is currently being appealed.

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TCA: Showtime and The CW

CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" at TCA

CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” at TCA

CBS Corp.’s two other properties: Showtime and The CW, held their presentations at TCA recently:

Showtime:

CEO David Nevins addressed rival FX’s programmer John Landgraf’s comments regarding “too much TV”: “There is never enough great TV”, Nevins responded.

Nevins also said he was developing a comedy with Jim Carrey about the 1970’s comedy club scene, and is developing a drama with Hip-Hop artist and Chicago native Common about growing up on the south side of Chicago. The untitled project so far has managed to steer clear of controversy by a similar project from Spike Lee, whose Chiraq is getting slammed by local politicians and some community leaders. “This is not [The] Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” noted Nevins.

He was also satisfied with the way the Twin Peaks reboot was progressing, with showrunner David Lynch returning to the show after walking off the set a few weeks ago over creative differences.

– The only new show to hold a panel at Showtime’s presentation was for Billions, a drama set on Wall Street. The new series features Emmy Winners Damian Lewis as a corrupt hedge fund king and Paul Giametti as a U.S. attorney looking to take him down – Lewis’ character was a blue-collar schmo who becomes enamored with his new wealth and power on Wall Street. Lewis told the press: “He lives by a code of honor, a set of street rules … where loyalty is fiercely protected and people are dispatched ruthlessly if they don’t adhere to that code.What’s going to be interesting for this story is the story of who will Bobby Axelrod [Lewis’ character] turn out to be. What is he prepared to do to retain power?”

This sounds a lot like Al Capone and Eliot Ness. Billions premiers in January.

The CW

Executive session: Mark Pedowitz took to the stage to talk about the critical success The CW has achieved with Jane The Virgin and Arrow, saying he’s proud of both shows and would give a significant marketing push for both – something the network hasn’t done for sophomore series before. Pedowitz also said he was offered CBS’ new Supergirl but passed, saying he has already enough DC Comics series on the schedule. Pedowitz also said the long-running Supernatural (the last remaining show on the air coming from The WB) can stay as long as its budget is manageable.

Pedowitz announced the renewals of Penn and Teller and Whose Line Is It Anyway; Britney Spears to guest star in a Jane The Virgin episode; and Matt Ryan of NBC’s now-canceled Constantine appears on Arrow next season – both programs are DC Comics properties, hence the crossover.

The most anticipated panel of the day was for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, an hour-long comedy/drama starring Rachel Bloom which has already generated positive buzz. And if you think the premise is nutty (women gives up law career in New York City to following her ex-boyfriend to West Covina, Ca.) the panel was just as. Originally a half-hour Showtime pilot, the CW version added thirteen minutes of material on average, though profanity was taken out and some of the sexiness was toned down.

So what defines “crazy” in this show? It’s more than ditching a well-paid career in the Big Apple to follow an ex. Bloom said: “We knew we wanted to start with a character who was in a bad place and looked at Josh Chan [the ex-boyfriend] as an escape. It’s very important that this is not a SNL character; this is someone struggling with issues. We’re going to explore that throughout the series.”

Expect musical numbers – a lot of them, averaging two to three an episode, according to the executive producer and Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna – though don’t look for giant pretzels to be a part of every number. And we may see some tap dancing:

“How many people on this panel can tap dance? You don’t get that with every show,” McKenna told the crowd, saying her show is quite different from the standard hour-long fare. “Ask the panel of “Blood And Oil”, are they going to tap? I assume that show’s about viscous liquids.”

It’s kind of hard to envision former Miami Vice star Don Johnson (now of Blood And Oil) tapdance…although he can sing…allegedly (remember 1986’s Heartbeat?)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premieres on Oct. 12.

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T Dog’s Think Tank: Chicago Tribune still feeling effects of Hurricane Zell

downloadLast week’s opinion piece shows the insensitivity of the Zell and Michaels era still abound at the Trib

As you know by now, Chicago Tribune Editorial Board member Kristen McQueary caused a huge stir last Friday writing a column “wishing” a Hurricane Katrina storm would wipe out Chicago, giving it a “reboot” as the city struggles with crime, financial problems, and poor public schools.

I guess the giant grasshoppers wreaking havoc on Chicago in Beginning Of The End wasn’t enough for her.

Readers were outraged, suggesting McQueary would wish death on citizens, in order to “refresh” the city. Moreover, many black readers were angered, suggesting inadvertently the city would be a better place to live if black and Hispanic residents left, noting New Orleans became a better place to live since the African-American population dropped after Hurricane Katrina hit ten years ago.  Moreover, she wrote a second column defending the first, saying readers took it out of context.

Well, can you tell me where the rebirth is? New Orleans was declining in Nielsen DMA rankings – even before Hurricane Katrina hit. The market, ranked 51st, still trails smaller markets in ad revenue. And the city is still beset with crime – its murder rate per capita is much higher than Chicago’s.

And while Chicago definitely needs improvement in a LOT of areas (especially in radio, who yours truly deemed the worst a while back), a report from Media Life Magazine last week said Chicago has no trouble in attracting top media talent and some media buyers would rather live here than New York or Los Angeles to do business, despite the city’s challenges – and definitely more so than New Orleans, where the pay is considerably less.

But this doesn’t matter to McQueary, who is a by-product of another hurricane – two of them in fact – Hurricane Zell and Hurricane Michaels – as is Sam “The Ziphead” Zell and Randy “Court Jester” Michaels, who destroyed a once-great paper using shock tactics and is still struggling to get back on track. Zell bought out Tribune Company in 2007, laden it with debt, and subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  In 2009, yours truly ripped into the editorial board for an useless Dancing With The Stars editorial; photoshopping Philadelphia Flyers player Chris Pronger in a skirt during the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, and of course, those late-night poker parties Michaels was holding in the Tribune Tower penthouse, among other sins.

The sad part is, some of those Zell and Michaels cronies are still there – I personally dealt with one of them after yours truly made fun of their “breaking news” slogan on Twitter, after they used it to tell us where WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling went on vacation and I called them out on it. One Court Jester loyalist stopped the fun when I said the Chicago Tribune was being taken over by the writing staff of the CBS’ now-defunct infertile sitcom The Millers. Ouch!

If readers are mad about the McQueary editorial, they can take heart about Chicago Tribune parent company’s stock price, which continues to drop. While Tribune Publishing revenues did beat second quarter estimates, revenue continued to fall with its stock price down 40 percent since they started trading on the stock exchange a year ago (Tribune Publishing separated from broadcasting division last year.) And this latest controversy won’t help.

As for McQueary’s column – as I said for years, right in this space – there’s needs to be more diversity in the media ranks in Chicago and in the industry in general. In a diverse city, it’s a shame the media business isn’t as diverse. In a piece I wrote earlier this year regarding Dan Bernstein’s sexist comments and former New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley writing about too much diversity in the business, I pointed out minorities must work harder to prove their worth in the media business, whether if in Chicago or in Hollywood.

So while Chicago does have a litany of problems like any other city, the Chicago Tribune has some of their own, created by Hurricane Zell and Hurricane Michaels – and the “clean-up efforts” are still ongoing. But by judging by this garbage editorial, you wonder if any “clean-up efforts” are taking place at all.

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Harry Volkman dies

HarryLongtime Chicago meteorologist set the standard for weather reporting

Chicago television fans are mourning the loss of one of local TV’s first known weatherman – Harry Volkman, who passed away at his home Thursday at the age of 89.

In an era before Doppler Radars and computer technology, Volkman was known for his active visual descriptions of the weather.

Volkman was noted for issuing the first-ever “tornado alert” back in 1952 while working for an Oklahoma City television station, WKY-TV (now KFOR-TV). The alert was credited for saving lives and is used today as a valuable resource for over-the-air broadcasters.

Volkman arrived in Chicago in 1959, being employed twice at WNBQ/WMAQ-TV and WGN-TV, and later at WBBM-TV and at WFLD, where he was until 2004 when they dropped him as weekend meteorologist. Volkman used strong wording to describe weather activity, such as “whoosh”. Volkman was also known for visiting area-elementary schools in the Chicago area.

In the last few years, Volkman had been more or less retired from the business. A few weeks ago, Volkman was hospitalized with a respiratory ailment.

Volkman is survived by his son Eddie, best known for being paired up with JoBo for morning drive at WBBM-FM. He is also survived by three other children, ten grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and his wife Anita.

This story was first reported by Robert Feder Thursday evening.

Chicago Media, Journalism, Television

“Monopoly Millionaires Club” sliced to a half-hour

MG_3764-812x522

Scientific Games’ Monopoly Millionaires’ Club, a weekly syndicated hour which debuted last March, is returning for a second season starting on Sept. 12.

But there is a catch – the show is being cut in half – as in a half-hour weekly, down from a full hour.

The game show, hosted by Mike & Molly’s Billy Gardell, uses state lotteries to pick contestants to play for one million dollars via a Monopoly lottery game.

In the Chicago area, Illinois does not participate in the Monopoly lottery, but tickets can be bought and played in Indiana’s Hoosier Lottery available in neighboring Lake and Porter Counties, which make up the easternmost part of the Chicago DMA.

Locally, Monopoly airs at 6 p.m. Sundays over WGN-TV, but airs in an alternative Saturday night time slot when its pre-empted for sporting events. WGN has not announced where the show would end up on the fall schedule, but would have to face NFL overruns if it were to stay on Sunday.

Hour-long weekly syndicated game shows in a traditional format are rare, and a weekly half-hour game show is even rarer. With the move, Monopoly would wind up facing Wheel Of Fortune or Jeopardy! in some markets, even though they are reruns.

The reason for the switch was to give stations (such as WGN) the flexibility to work around sports overruns, according to Barry Wallach, a former NBCU and Genesis Entertainment executive who is handling distribution. The program is cleared in 95 percent of the country who permit lotteries. Stations are still excited about the show, given there is nothing of this magnitude airing in first-run weekend syndication – by a country mile.

Nielsen Ratings for Monopoly Millionaires’ Club have been decent, averaging between a 1 and 2 household rating, according to TVNewsCheck. The program is taped in Las Vegas.

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WGN-TV returns news to 10 p.m.

WGN-TV NewsExpands to 10 p.m. to compete with Big Three

Here we grow again: WGN-TV’s popular local newscasts are adding yet another half-hour – and this time, the Tribune Media-owned station is taking on the Big Three owned-and-operated stations with the launch of a local half-hour newscast at 10 p.m. beginning October 5.

WGN’s current 9 p.m. anchor team – Mark Suppelsa, Micah Materre, Dan Roan, and Tom Skilling, will also helm the 10 p.m. show.

“Thirty-five years after launching the WGN News at Nine, news consumption has changed dramatically. We know the appetite for news continues to grow,” said Greg Easterly, who is President and GM of WGN-TV . “This new, expanded half-hour will bring viewers all the news and weather you need to know before the night ends. It’s just too important of a time period for us not to be there.” With the expansion, WGN would now program 11.5 hours of news per weekday and more than 60 hours a week.

Fox-owned WFLD had a 10 p.m. newscast called The Ten, premiering in April 2007. Despite passing CBS-owned WBBM-TV in the 18-49 demo on a few occasions, the low-rated newscast was canceled in September 2009.

WGN’s entry could have an impact on the late news race. Unlike WFLD, WGN has strong ratings in the key 25-54 demo – and achieves a higher rating at 9 p.m. than WBBM does at 10 p.m., despite decent prime-time lead-ins. In July, ABC-owned WLS-TV led in households at 10 p.m., but the margin of victory was considerably less among adults 25-54.

Chicago Tribune ad for new 9 pm newscast and "Odd Couple" reruns from March 10, 1980. (Chicago Tribune)

Chicago Tribune ad for new 9 pm newscast and “Odd Couple” reruns from March 10, 1980. (Chicago Tribune)

The move comes as more and more local stations are expanding newscasts as demand for off-network and even first-run syndicated programming continues to diminish. Instead of programming another syndicated rerun at 11 p.m. to replace the failed Arsenio Hall revival, Tribune’s KTLA in Los Angeles quietly added a half-hour newscast to compete against the three network-owned stations in the time slot.

Many Fox stations have also added 10 p.m./11 p.m. newscasts over the years to compete with the big three brethren in late news in their markets.

To further drive home the point Tribune doesn’t need off-network sitcoms, WGN is moving the third airing of Craig Ferguson’s Celebrity Name Game to 10:30 p.m., competing directly against Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and Stephen Colbert. Name Game also runs at 10 and 10:30 a.m.

Up until March 1980, WGN actually programmed a half-hour newscast at 10 p.m. – but moved it to 9 p.m. and became one of the first stations in the Midwest to launch a prime-time newscast. The inaugural 9 p.m. newscast on March 10, 1980 was helmed by John Drury, Len O’Connor, Bill Frink, and Tom Skilling (yes, the same one!)

So what replaced the 10’Oclock news on WGN? Reruns of The Odd Couple, followed by the premiere of an Australian import called Prisoner: Cell Block H, a rather violent show featuring shenanigans at a women’s prison.

Don’t drop the soap. For real.

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TCA: CBS readying for 2015-16 season

The cast of CBS' new upcoming "Supergirl". (Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS -- © 2015 CBS Broadcasting Network.  All rights reserved.

The cast of CBS’ new upcoming “Supergirl”. (Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS — © 2015 CBS Broadcasting Network. All rights reserved.

Top-rated network ready to defend their crown

CBS trotted out its stars for TCA last week, touting its successes and promoting its new shows. Here’s a rundown on how it went with reviews of selected show panels:

Executive session: Nina Tassler talked about how CBS does business with competitors  – such as Netflix – which also turns out to be some of their biggest customers. CBS has licensing deals with Netflix for some of their product, notably older TV shows such as Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. CBS also competes with Netflix with over-the-top [Internet] service CBS All Access. Tassler also show confidence in her new late-night guy Stephen Colbert, the man taking over the Late Show from David Letterman on September 8. “ [Colbert] has a limitless amount of creative tools in his tool chest. He has a real joy of performing.” Tassler told reporters.

She also defended the single-camera comedy format, after saying last year multi-cam was more suited for CBS – though now, there’s only one on the fall schedule (Big Bang Theory.) Tassler said she was more open to single-cam comedies. She made no decisions on the fates of Person Of Interest or Under The Dome, though the latter’s “dome” is coming down, opening up more storytelling possibilities. Shouldn’t the name change then?

Stephen Colbert at CBS Press Tour. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Stephen Colbert at CBS Press Tour. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

And speaking of Colbert…he appeared in the last segment of the press tour. While he declined to detail specifics about his new show, he did say what it’s not going to be: his old persona from Comedy Central: “That guy was a tool” said Colbert at the tour, referring to his character on The Colbert Report. And since he won’t be in character, he “[doesn’t] have to hold back at all” when it comes to interviewing, he says.

The old Colbert Report staff is working on this show, and CBS is taking a hands-off approach. Plus, don’t look for any late-night wars you saw with Jay Leno and David Letterman: Colbert doesn’t believe in them.

Colbert’s first guest is George Clooney, and his first musical act is Kendrick Lamar. Should be fun.

New Face The Nation host John Dickerson faced the press, and talked about presidential candidate Donald Trump (he said the press should move on to him) and is the man who is moderating the Democratic (Nov. 14) and Republican (Feb. 13) debates. CBS News president David Rhoades joined Dickerson on stage and said of CBS News’ convention coverage, he’s going where the action is: more on the floor, less in the comfy skyboxes. Rhoades also touted growth for their network morning and evening newscasts.

During CBS Interactive’s presentation (you can tell TCA members were snoozing through this one), CBS Vision head David Polltrack wants to ween viewers away from their DVRs and have them back watching live TV. “We’d love to transfer as much of the current non-monetized DVR post-seven day viewing to monetized viewing”, Polltrack said. He noted there are less viewers fast-forwarding though ads these days because according to him, people are “too busy on their phones” to fast forward. Not sure where he came up with that, nor do we want to know. 

Another anticipated CBS series coming this fall is SuperGirl, featuring Melissa Benoist who was the first to audition for the role – and won the part. Even though the series is a drama, executive producer Greg Berlanti said Supergirl is “part-workplace comedy”. Nice try Greg. But once Big Bang moves to Thursdays in late October, Mondays would be without any sitcoms on any network for the first time in television history. Supergirl premieres October 26.

"Angel From Hell". (CBS)

“Angel From Hell”. (CBS)

Next up was Angel From Hell, starring Maggie Lawson and Dolton native and former Glee star Jane Lynch (as the angel, naturally.) But before you get any ideas, this isn’t exactly Highway To Heaven and Jane Lynch isn’t playing a Michael Landon role: she’s plays an angel who has substance abuse issues (hence the hell.) Creator Tad Quill said his show is being looked at as a contemporary version of Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeannie, whatever that means. Quill also said religion won’t play a central role (it didn’t in Highway either): “The show brings up question of faith but is first and foremost a comedy”, Quill told reporters at the press tour.

Don’t look for Jane Lynch’s character to fall in love on the show – but she can still bang anyone: “I could go through the whole family if I wanted to.” joked Lynch.

Next up was new single-cam laffer Life In Pieces which features James Brolin as head of a family that gets in a lots of wacky situations. Executive producer James Wiener told the press the series is like “Looney Tunes”, referring to the classic Warner Bros. cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Co.

Funny. I swore Life In Pieces was more like Modern Family and Parenthood. Only not as entertaining.

And those wacky situations the show was referring to? If you like fake funerals and babies pooping on the delivery table, this one is right up your alley. “We’re committed and CBS is committed to letting us tell odd stories,” said EP Aaron Kaplan.

Well, I’m committed not to tune into this show. 

Also holding panels were new dramas Limitless and Code Black, two forgettable dramas I’m sure not worth talking about – especially Limitless, which is – you guessed it – Another frickin’ FBI drama!

Broadcast Networks

TCA: FX chief: “There is too much television”

"There's too much TV" - John Landgraf. FX chief

“There’s too much TV” – John Landgraf. FX chief

Hulu Presentation: Mindy Project arrives in style 

FX president John Landgraf made waves at TCA last week during his network’s day at the Press Tour, stating there’s just “too much television”.

Too much TV? You don’t say.

He was referring to the 300+ scripted shows that dot the landscape, saying “it’s impossible to maintain quality control” – part of the reason why his Comedians – with Billy Crystal – failed.

Yes, there is a glut of good scripted programming – even yours truly doesn’t have time to watch it all. Nobody does, if you have a busy lifestyle. What’d you expect with the explosion of cable channels and internet streaming options over the last 20 years? And besides, the TV viewer decides what programming is good to them, not a group of network suits. It’s not for Landgraf to decide.

And more programming means more job opportunities for writers. Remember when those “reality” shows were all the rage, putting writers out of work? Don’t recall any idiot TV exec wailing about “too much TV” then.

Landgraf, like many network execs, are bitching because there is some “good programming” the audience rejected, Comedians being one of them. It just goes to show you have to be at the top of your game in this business. Getting by won’t cut it anymore.

Among other selected press tour highlights for FX and Hulu:

– Stephen Falk, creator of critically acclaimed You’re The Worst went off on how he writes about millennials despite being older than he is, saying he writes in different voices than his own and his writing staff keeps honing in on pop culture. The characters on the show aren’t exactly Ward and June Cleaver, and that’s okay with the cast: “I feel like delayed adolescence has become quite a thing in our culture,” says Aya Cash, who plays Gretchen. “What a grown-up is has changed as well, and you don’t have to hit the milestones you used to have to hit to be grown-up.

You’re The Worst, along with Archer, moves from FX to FXX this fall.

– Carlton Cuse talked about The Strain, and fans…enjoy the show while it lasts, because you’re getting only five seasons of it- though FX made an “official announcement” it was being renewed for a third season. The current season has New York struggling with an epidemic, while scientists aren’t succeeding against those transmitting the disease. There is a book this series is based off of, but Cuse is steering away from it because “to fill thirteen episodes in the first two seasons, there wasn’t enough (material) in the books.”

– Remember Sons Of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter? Now he’s doing a show set in the 14th Century England called The Bastard Executioner. Here, he talks about violence on the show: “Violence, as absurd as it could be sometimes on Sons, it always came from an organic place. It was never done in a vacuum. The same mandate here. The laws and punishments were brutal and heinous, and that’s the reality of the world. There’s ways to portray that violence that don’t make it openly gratuitous. Anything that happens, be it battle sequences or execution or a torture scene, it comes out of story, and we see the characters conflict or non-conflict in carrying forth that violence, but it always has some ramification.”

Remember, there were lots of violence on Sons Of Anarchy too, and Sutter is used to it and the backlash. He avoids the “killing someone for the sake of killing someone” argument. When Sutter pitched the show to FX, he avoided   “where there’s just a head in a basket every week.” 

Bastard Executioner premieres on FX September 15.

– Switching over to Hulu, the main attraction was The Mindy Project, which premieres on the streaming service September 15, moving over from Fox, where it spent the last three seasons. It’s proof streaming services are stepping in to save shows after broadcast network cancellation – something syndicators did in the 1980’s did and cable networks did in the 1990’s.

And Mindy Kaling is grateful her show is saved. With the move to Hulu, her show doesn’t have to worry about network exec notes – not to mention more freedom from “standards and practices” or pestering from network affiliates. “The freedom of trying to say a joke and not have to neuter it or soften it is refreshing, says Mindy cast member Ike Barinholtz. “Emphasizing that streaming and online platforms make sense for more adult, niche oriented comedies, he added that the freedom cultivated by places like Hulu provides “a much more fertile ground for comedy.”

Though yours truly gave up on Mindy after eight or so episodes (though I may revisit this program in the future), give credit to Mindy Kaling for running one of the best creative operations in Hollywood. It’s not easy to produce, write, and act in your own show – and taking a lot of heat for decisions being made.

– Letting down a few expecting it, Hulu did not announce an ad-free version of the service, which had been speculated for a while. Both Netflix and Amazon has no advertising. But Hulu did announce it was releasing new episodes of its original programming one week at a time, dashing the hopes of bingers everywhere.

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TCA: Fox pushes “Empire” and “Scream Queens”

"Empire". (Deadline/Fox)

“Empire”. (Deadline/Fox)

It was Fox’s turn at TCA last week, with Empire as the main attraction.

Creator Lee Daniels told the crowd he was blessed to be employed, as some of his fellow colleagues aren’t so lucky. Taraji P. Henson, who plays the outspoken Cookie, said she was having the time of her life on the show, pointing out she’s more politically correct than her character is.

While working on Empire, Daniels revealed he has another project in the works for Fox: “Star”, an Atlanta-based program about three young women who form a signing group, which is now casting.

In a bit of vindication for Empire, the series won “Program Of The Year” at the TCA Awards Saturday night. Empire was snubbed by the Emmys for the most part, failing to get a nomination for Outstanding Drama.

As for the Michigan woman who is suing the show for “stealing her life based on Cookie”, Daniels said this: “Bye Felicia”.

Empire begins its second season on Sept. 23; a local promo for the show promoting the second season is already airing over WFLD-TV. Guest stars for the upcoming season include Pitbull, Chris Rock, Kelly Rowland, and Mariah Carey.

Good sign or not? When six minutes of footage from the new X-Files was screened by Fox Chairman and CEO Dana Walden, it didn’t exactly wow those in attendance. Many critics noticed the clip was more comical than it attended to be. On the subject of TV revivals, she noted their were new generations of fans embracing the content – not to mention fans who saw it the first time and not ready for the shows to run their course.

Fox said it was bringing back Prison Break, a drama it canceled six years ago, with the principal actors reprising their roles (they need to get the Coulson playbook from The Avengers to pull off this feat.)

Fox also announced its pregame and post-game show The OT would take place on the read carpet outside the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles the day of the Emmy Awards – despite not having a team in the region in over 20 years. But that could change as many as up to three teams are in the running could relocate to L.A. next year.

One panel that had the audience jumping was Scream Queens, a horror/musical created by Glee’s Ryan Murphy. In addition to a stellar young cast, it also marks the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to weekly series television in nearly 25 years. In Scream Queens, she plays a dean who often clashes with sorority leader Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts.)

The cast also features Lea Michele (Glee) and Chicago south suburban native Keke Palmer.

Curtis told the crowd Scream Queens was basically “a social satire about people who say horrible things”.

And it looks like the series will click – Marc Berman of TV Media Insights gave it 1-to-1 odds to succeed. With Empire and now Scream Queens, Fox is apparently back on track after a disastrous last two seasons.

Congratulations, John Stamos – you got Grandfathered! During this panel, Stamos discusses how his character finds out he is a grandfather without going on Maury“This is the show I’ve been waiting for” notes Stamos, who was looking for a project to fit his style for the last decade, noting the show reflects his personal life.

Stamos also took questions on the Full House revival, Fuller House, which premieres next year on Netflix, but didn’t seem too excited about Lifetime’s upcoming The Unauthorized Full House Story, which depicts him as not getting along with the Olsen twins.

During the panel for Grinder, a series about an actor (Rob Lowe) who plays a lawyer on TV, Fred Savage – who plays an actual lawyer on the show –  had a rather unusual request…he wants to create an app “where you can find Rob Lowe anywhere and have sex with him… we’re all of us a potential love interest for Rob.

I guess it’s long if it isn’t the Rob Lowe whose isn’t afraid to urinate in public bathrooms or eats a sandwich found on the bus.

Two other panels were dramas: Rosewood, which is Quincy, only set in Miami and Minority Report, a drama based on the movie and has Steven Speilberg as one of its co-producers.

 

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TCA: ABC’s full line-up: Muppets, mayhem, and more

ABC_MeetingIt was ABC’s turn at TCA Tuesday and Wednesday:

– Some big breaking news took place at the TCA tour: Kermit and Miss Piggy are no longe an item. That’s right – the long-running couple, who have been dating each other since 1976 – or so – called it quits recently, shocking the entire world. So my brothers and sisters, let’s pour a 40 of Old English on the curb to remember their relationship…

Of course, this is the basis for ABC’s new Muppets series, the first one since Muppets Tonight left in air in 1998 (I’m keeping the malt liquor in the bottle, thank you very much.)

This version is far different from the original Muppet Show (which was syndicated by ITC) and Muppets Tonight (which aired on ABC and the Disney Channel)- this series is set at a fictional late-night talk show titled Up Late With Miss Piggy in a mockumentary view – similar in style of Garry Shandling’s The Larry Sanders Show (actually, it’s kind of a ripoff.)

The TCA panel for a little strange – Kermit and Miss Piggy even addressed the “applause issue…”

Showrunner Bill Prady said he pitched a version of this show eight years ago, but the timing wasn’t right.

Since their enthusiastic appearance at Comic-Con, buzz has built for The Muppets, and it could be the biggest hit on the networks this fall. ABC has not had a hit sitcom in the lead-off Tuesday night time slot since Home Improvement ended in 1999.

As for Kermit… he told reporters at TCA – yes, at TCA he was now dating a pig named Denise in ABC’s marketing department. For a minute there, we all thought he was dating Donald Trump.

– Paul Lee came out and talked to the press, about how television has changed in the the five years he had held the title of Entertainment President – notably how it has become more diverse (Lee spearheaded diversity on the programming schedule last fall), and the rise of on-demand viewing through subscription services – notably Scandal, which became a hit after viewers binged the show on Netflix.

Hey fellas... she's single now!

Hey fellas… she’s single now!

Lee touched on other subjects, including the success of Celebrity Family Feud, Patrick Dempsey’s departure from Grey’s Anatomy (“There’s no reason to expect that ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ won’t go on for many, many years to come.”, he said), and even touched on oft-forgotten sitcom Last Man Standing, which created a stir earlier in the week when Tim Allen said ABC execs were meddling in the show’s content due to its political humor.

As Bill Prady noted in the Muppets panel, he decided against making The Muppets topical or political.  “I’m not a fan of doing that,” said Prady. “You wind up in the “Murphy Brown” situation where the show becomes a thing of the moment….There’s no longevity. We want to be a thing of greater duration.”

So far, Last Man Standing has had trouble being sold in syndication, as Brown was one of the biggest off-network busts of the 1990’s. Interestingly enough, reruns of The Muppet Show was one of the biggest rerun busts of the 1980’s, despite its first-run syndication success in the 1970’s.

– Shonda Rhimes had a panel for her three shows and came off well, despite refusing to answer some questions critics had. She had some explaining to do after the controversial decision to kill off Patrick Dempsey’s character on Grey’s Anatomy, a jump the shark moment in a show whose history is filled with them: “The decision to have the character die the way that he did wasn’t a difficult one in the show,” Rhimes told critics at the tour.  “Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith and leave her high and dry, but then that would say that the love wasn’t true over the last 11 years of the show. … That would be untenable. … He couldn’t be the bad guy and walk out. The only way to make Meredith and Derek’s magic remain true was to keep it frozen in time.”

Shimes went on to talk about Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, but when the subject somehow turned to Donald Trump, Grey’s cast member Ellen Pompeo just wanted to rip out his vocal cords. Don’t we all.

– Perhaps the most promoted show on ABC this summer has to be the Don Johnson/Chace Crawford vehicle Blood & Oil, in the vein of those 1980’s nighttime soaps. Johnson in fact, said his show isn’t a Dallas clone.  “The only thing we have in common, tangentially, is oil is part of it.” Johnson said. Oddly enough, the exec producer of Blood & Oil and Cynthia Cidre – who recently was the showrunner of the recent Dallas revival on TNT.

–  If you guessed Quantico was another FBI action show, you’re right – it is. The show is about a bunch of FBI recruits in Quantico, Va, and each of them harbors a dark secret – one of them is even accused of masterminding the biggest terrorist plot since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Star Priyanka Chopra – a former Miss World who made a profitable living starring in Bollywood films, said she didn’t know much about the script – and wasn’t given any information about the show; she was told her character’s name was Alex, her mom was Indian and her dad was Caucasian. “They tell me nothing – is that how TV works?” Chopra said at the tour.

Welcome to the American TV business.

– During the panel for Wicked City, the creator talked about the series’ setting, the early 1980’s in Los Angeles during the Valley Girl era. The series follows a serial killer, who prays women on the Sunset Strip. His girlfriend is also caught up in this.

Dexter this is not.

Some critics didn’t like the trailer shown – one even suggest their should be more men as victims. Even though this is a yet another period piece, don’t look for any parodies of the ’80’s according to show runner Amy Harris (that’s another show’s job on the network.) Yeah, and don’t look for yours truly to be watching this crap, either.

– On a side note, ABC also held a panel for The FABLife, a new syndicated talk show strip launching Sept. 14 on WLS-Channel 7 at 1 p.m., replacing Rachael Ray. Critics complained the panel was uneven and too bubbly, with Tyra Banks on stage with the cast of the show. And for course, the show revealed yellow as its primary color. In Chicago, FABLife competes against Maury on WGN, The Talk on WBBM and Meredith Vieira on WMAQ. Given the choices, let’s just say I’m glad I’m at work during this time.

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TCA: Amazon delivers the goods – with free shipping!

Cheers, bitches. Jeffrey Tambor in drag in "Transparent". (Amazon)

Cheers, bitches. Jeffrey Tambor in drag in “Transparent”. (Amazon)

To show you how things have changed in television, streaming services now have their own sessions at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. A few days after Netflix appeared at the gathering, itwas Amazon’s turn to present to the crowd.

But According to some on Twitter, Amazon was just as excited about selling television shows as they were selling microwave ovens… although Jennifer Gray is excited about the free shipping (see below.)

– The Price Is Right: During an session with critics, Amazon Studios chief Roy Price discussed how his SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) service differs from Netflix and Hulu, saying they were “not in the outcome business” or in “the programming business”. he said picking up a show for additional seasons (i.e. Hannibal) after being canceled would actually take away from producing the first season of a new show. Certainly, SVOD services don’t have to worry about ratings and demos as linear shows do, as he pointed out.

Price talked about a new project from the overrated Woody Allen, which could bow in 2016 (or not; Allen’s perfectionism could hold the project up until 2021); Price also said a project from X-Files creator Chris Carter was touted at last summer’s TCA, but was scrapped a few months ago. Price also mentioned Amazon picked up former BBC series Top Gear, but avoided questions about host Jeremy Clarkson’s alleged racist and sexist slurs, much to the chagrin of critics.

Oddly, Price did not mention Chiraq during his session, the controversial movie project from Spike Lee being filmed here in Chicago and generated non-stop headlines since it was announced.

– Creator Jill Soloway was amazed of how the acceptance of transgender people has caught up to her series Transparent, which was picked up for a second season.

“It’s mind blowing how much has changed over the past year, how our culture has caught up to Trend 101” Soloway told the crowd at the press tour and reported in Broadcasting and Cable.

The transformation of former Olympian Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn is an interesting real-life backdrop for Transparent, which features a character played by Jeffrey Tambor who transforms from a man to a woman.

To give the show more clarity, the show recently added a transgender person to its writing staff. “Any show about trans people should have trans people at the center of it” said Soloway. A very good idea, especially given there are so few transgender people in the industry.

– Going from the a biker gang to the bench: that’s exactly what Ron Pearlman is doing in his new series Hand Of God, where he plays a judge who has visions sent to him by God, while trying to find the perp who raped his sister-in-law. The former Sons Of Anarchy was excited about his newly different role:

The series is produced by Burn Notice’s Ben Watkins and also stars Dana Delaney (China Beach), who noticed that Amazon treated female characters with a lot more respect than their network counterparts.

Hands Of God drops on Sept. 4 with ten episodes.

– Overheard at the Amazon TCA presentation: From Red Oaks star Jennifer Grey:

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: WLS-TV back on top at 10 p.m. in July

ABC 7Plus: WBBM-TV’s news ratings stink; Downtown Abbey heads into the final stretch; MundoFox to become MundoMax…eventually 

– ABC-owned WLS-TV reclaimed the top spot at 10 p.m. according to Nielsen, reclaiming the late news throne from NBC-owned WMAQ-TV. Despite the loss, WMAQ still gained viewers year-to-year at 10 in the all-important 25-54 demo. The biggest loser no doubt is CBS-owned WBBM, who not only finished third in late news, but in some news time periods, couldn’t muster more than a 0.1 rating in the 25-54 demo. Might be time for news director Jeff Kierman to board a plane out of town and let The Church Of Tisch find their next “victim” to run this woeful news operation. For the last few decades, WBBM’s news stood for World’s Biggest Bowel Movements when it came to ratings.

And it’s not just Chicago – for all the success CBS has in prime-time, some of their O&O and affiliate stations’ newscasts have not benefited from the halo effect. In Boston, CBS-owned WBZ-TV could place no better than third in most news time slots, ditto for sister station in Philadelphia, KYW-TV. CBS affiliates in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle, Orlando, and Milwaukee have the same problem.

And CBS still doesn’t have a local news operation in Detroit.

Plus, CBS’ morning and network evening newscasts are still behind NBC and ABC.

So while CBS can brag about it’s prime-time and NFL successes, when it comes to news, it’s far from it. As a pundit once said, “CBS once stood for the Columbia Broadcast System. Today, the C stands for Cheap. We all know the BS stands for.” 

– MundoFox, the Spanish-language entertainment network has gone under a name change as a result of Fox selling its stake in the network – it is now known as MundoMax, now wholly owned by RCN. MundoMax has shut down its news department effective July 28, with forty employees getting pink-slipped.

With Fox selling its stake in MundoMax, there is no word if the network would continue on the subchannels of its owned-and-operated stations in Chicago (WPWR), New York (WWOR) and Washington (WDCA). Chicago viewers can still view MundoMax over WOCK-CD (which simulcasts over WPWR-Ch.50.3) and on cable. Adding to the confusion, despite the name change, the network is still referred to as MundoFox. Come on guys, get it together.

– Knock, Knock, no one’s home: Fox has pulled the plug on the inane Ryan Seacrest vehicle Knock Knock Live, the one hour Tuesday night show where one lucky person who answered a knock on their door on live TV was in for surprise. Despite quite a bit of chatter on Twitter – especially after Justin Bieber appeared on the show, Knock Knock Live only averaged a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49, ranking it as one of the least watched shows on television. Fox is replacing the show with sitcom repeats.

– TCA tidbit: PBS announced over the weekend that January 3 would be the premiere date for the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey. Production on the British series began wrapping up this week, and is airing on Britain’s ITV this fall before coming stateside. To kick off the new season Abbey will have a float  in the Tournament Of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on January 1.

Addressing the critics at the tour, PBS Chief Anne Kerger was grateful to have Downton Abbey on the schedule and is getting ready to launch a new Civil Rights-era drama called Mercy Street, but she pointed out PBS’ content budget is smaller than most other networks due to exclusively depending on corporate underwriting, viewer donations, and federal funding from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting.

Other panels during PBS’ two days at the tour included one for Norman Lear, who is still going strong at 93.

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TCA: It’s not a TCA Press Session. It’s an HBO TCA Press Session.

HBO_LogoFor all the success HBO has had with its programming, it doesn’t get as much love on Wall Street as it does in the arts community – pundits were criticizing HBO’s decision to offer its programming over-the-top (OTT) for $14.99 per month.

Well, if the over 100 Emmy nominations are any indication, it might be worth it.

And that’s the basis for HBO’s presentation Thursday at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena.

– Executive session: HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo discussed the future of hit series Game Of Thrones, saying it’s possible the series go beyond seven seasons – and even a prequel he said. He declined to discuss Throne’s controversial rape scene in detail, which was talked about to death everything else.

Lombardo said he wasn’t concerned about competition from streaming service Netflix, which has garnered quite a bit of press attention and Emmy nominations (but not as many as HBO), saying there is just as much quality programming coming from FX and AMC as there is from Netflix. Lombardo also said he was open to bringing back Curb Your Enthusiasm for a ninth season if Larry David wants to do it. He also defended criticism over True Detective’s second season, which has been salvaged by some (especially on yours truly’s Twitter feed.)

Other HBO highlights:

– There was some controversy over David Simon’s new series Show Me A Hero, set in a public housing project in Yonkers, N.Y. in the 1980’s. The Wire creator scolded the crowd Thursday for their…lack of outrage:  “I’m coming with six hours on public housing in Yonkers, New York, and you’re not acting like I’m out of my mind. What were you people thinking?” Oscar Issac plays Yonkers mayor  Nicholas Wasicsko – the youngest mayor ever elected in the United States at the time – who often clashes with his less-than-progressive city council, led by Alderman Spollane (Alfred Molina.) The six-hour miniseries premieres Aug. 16.

Hero is directed by former Thritysomething writer Paul Haggis, who co-wrote, produced and directed the Oscar-winning 2004 movie Crash.

– During a session for his new HBO comedy Ballers, Dwayne Johnson (known as The Rock in WWE), said he was disappointed with Hulk Hogan after it was revealed the WWE superstar used racial slurs when he described his daughter’s music career in sealed documents in his lawsuit against Gawker. Rock and Hogan helped headline Wrestlemania in 2002. Hogan was “fired” from the WWE last week and anything referring to him was scrubbed from its website.

– Another panel had the cast of Bessie up, featuring Queen Latifah, Taraji P. Henson, and Kandi Landecker. Latifah told the crowd he’s in a better position to play the famed blues singer Bessie Smith now at 44 when she was pitched the project, at 22, the height of her hip-hop career. “When the project came my way, I don’t think I had the life journey that went along with it. I got to live more of the blues.” Latifah said at the tour.

Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment, who also produced her now-canceled talk show, is producing Bessie for HBO, and is directed by Dee Rees.

Quick Bits:

– HBO announced several new specials at the tour: Amy Schumer’s first stand-up special, from the Apollo Theater in New York and directed by Chris Rock, premieres on October 17. A U2 concert special is slated for November 14, while a behind-the scenes documentary is scheduled for November 7.

– Mark April 12, 2016 on your calendars: that’s when Game Of Thrones, Veep, and Silicon Valley return with all new episodes.

– HBO renewed Real Time with Bill Maher for two more seasons.

– HBO also signed a “first-look” deal with Russell Simmons, whose TV career began with the network with Def Comedy Jam way back when.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Landecker exits WLS-FM

john-landecker190x25001– Mr. Records has called it a career: John Landecker, whose middle name is really “Records”, is exiting Cumulus-owned WLS-FM today. The move coincides with the arrival of new program director Brian Thomas from New York City’s Cumulus station, WNSH-FM (Nash 94.7, a Country station). Landecker said the departure of former PD Jan Jeffries had nothing to do with his decision to leave, which he made on his own. He insists he’s not “retiring”.

Landecker, who has worked for many local stations throughout his long career – including in Toronto and Cleveland, told Robert Feder he certainly won’t miss the music being played on WLS-FM –  especially after the 1960’s. WLS mainly plays mostly rock hits from the 1970’s and 1980’s (which basically means a lot Journey, Aerosmith, and Van Halen ten times a day.)

I guess we shouldn’t ask Landecker’s opinion on Alternative Rock or Hip-Hop.

– A year after being put up for sale, The Walt Disney Co. has finally found a buyer for Radio Disney’s WRDZ-AM (1300): Polnet Communications, who is in the process of selling its local low-power TV station, WPVN to a separate company. Polnet specializes in Polish programming (hence the name Polnet.)

WRDZ joins four other ethnic-brokered stations Polnet owns in the Chicago area.

Once known as WTAQ-AM, Disney bought the ethnic-programmed station in 1998 for its Radio Disney network, but has shifted away from its terrestrial radio strategy over the years more toward digital platforms. Disney put up its stations for sale, and WRDZ is one of the last ones to go.

If you’re looking for the WTAQ call letters to return to the 1300 frequency, forget it – they now occupy a Green Bay news/talk station.

– The St. Louis Cardinals are about to get seriously PAID. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fox Sports Midwest has agreed to a contact extension with the baseball team lasting fifteen more years starting with the 2018 season and is worth close to $1 billion, perhaps making this the richest local baseball TV rights deal in history – remarkable given the St. Louis DMA ranks 21st in the country.

Cardinals’ games rank among the highest-rated in Major League Baseball – defeating almost all prime-time programming on the broadcast networks by far in households and among adults 25-54. FSN Midwest continues to air 150 Cardinals games per year, and can be seen not only in the St. Louis area, but also in several neighboring states, including Illinois, Arkansas, and Tennessee. No over-the-air games are planned, although at one time, KPLR and later KSDK carried Cardinals games.

The Television Critics Association press tour got underway in Pasadena this week with Netflix taking the stage first. Here’s a quick rundown on what The popular streaming service:

– Much to critics’ chagrin, Netflix still won’t divulge into how many viewers Netflix has for each show, but exec Ted Sarandos did say Orange Is The New Black is the most watched show on the service.

– Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen still might consider on appearing on Full House sequel Fuller House.

– Netflix plans to roll out a Marvel series every six months, with Jessica Jones next on top. Daredevil has also been renewed for a second season.

– Netflix Original series Longmire, picked up from A&E after three seasons, premieres on September 10. Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None premieres on Nov. 6. For more on Netflix’s upcoming programming, click here.

In other TCA news, MTV renewed Scream for a second season; NatGeo is airing miniseries Big Game Of Thrones, which I assure you has nothing to do with the HBO series Game Of Thrones. 

More news from TCA is coming soon, so watch this space.

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Think Tank Express: News content targeted by the FCC

WDBJ7-dot-com-generic1-jpg

FCC fine against Roanoke TV station could invite special-interest groups to influence newsroom content 

As you recall, the FCC proposed a fine of $325,000 against WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. last March after inadvertently showing a three-second video clip of a porn site with male genitalia during a 2012 news story about nearby Cave Springs, Va.’s effort to prevent a former porn star from joining its volunteer fire department.

WDBJ is owned by Schurz Communications, who also owns CBS affiliate WSBT in South Bend, Ind. and the South Bend Tribune newspaper. Schurz is based in the north-central Indiana city.

On Tuesday, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television Digital News Association joined WDBJ in filing briefs against the fine, which the CBS affiliate is fighting. According to Broadcasting and Cable, the NAB and RTDNA are fighting against the fine on First Amendment grounds:

“From the broader industry perspective, the NAL [Notice of Liability] is disquieting because it improperly intrudes into broadcasters’ editorial discretion. In particular, the extraordinarily punitive nature of the fine and the accompanying discussion in the NAL raise the specter that the Commission’s subjective view of the merit of WDBJ’s underlying news story drove the unprecedented decision here. As such, the FCC’s action is a direct affront to First Amendment values that undoubtedly will further chill broadcast speech.”

Indeed, the fine – the first levied against a single TV station since the “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl over a decade ago – is quite steep. This action by the FCC – an government agency who only rivals the Illinois legislature for partisan dysfunction and for being useless and ineffective – is disgusting and chilling. This does nothing but invite government intrusion into the newsroom and trounces upon the First Amendment right of the freedom of the press.

Rev. Michael Pflager (Chicago Sun-Times)

Rev. Michael Pflager (Chicago Sun-Times)

Even worse, this decision could give politicians and special-interest groups more influence over newsroom content. It’s nothing but an open invitation for the likes of the Parents Television Council (whose praised the FCC ruling) and the Rev. Michael Pflager, if the controversy involving the latter over the film Chiraq is any indication (whether he’s for or against the movie doesn’t matter. ) In other words, if you’re sick of Plager being all over the news media now…

Or even worse, law enforcement. If you recall, Chicago Police detained several a journalist and a cameraman outside a hospital several years ago after covering a shooting. Outside the hospital where the victim was rushed, a Chicago Police officer stupidly threatened to terminate journalists’ right to free press.

During the riots in Ferguson, Mo. last year, police detained several journalists and threatened several news crews.

If the FCC upholds this ruling, our hope is WDBJ and the trade groups take this to court – even the Supreme Court if need be. WDBJ handled the incident internally (with the departure of the news director and those involved in the incident) and nothing more needs to be done. There is too much at stake to let the likes of the PTC, Rev. Pflager, and law enforcement to control content coming out of newsrooms. This is something you expect to see in North Korea, not in the United States of America.

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