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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comic Con could move to Las Vegas

Variety reports that Las Vegas could steal ComicCon from San Diego, bringing the world's largest comic book, Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention to Nevada. If we get the event it will be because Las Vegas has the convention space to handle a convention that has outgrown San Diego. Anaheim and Los Angeles are also bidding to gain the convention after its contract with San Diego expires in 2012, but neither has the required space in a single geographic area. Bus shuttles and other methods are being pitched to sew together venues in those two cities. Because of recent acquisitions, Disney may put its full weight behind Anaheim, while other Hollywood interests are split between LA and Las Vegas as a preferred location, if San Diego cannot meet the space requirements prior to contract renewal.

The plight of local television affiliates

Rapid change, or some may say evolution, in the television industry.

Broadcasting depended on local stations, licenses by the FCC to local interests or groups, to get their product out to the masses.

Local affiliates, once the backbone of how programming appeared coast to coast, the national tentacles and reputation for news and sports divisions, are shrinking and some say in the age of cable and satellite, out of date entirely. As populations become more transient, in their viewing and social identification habits if not in geography, the role of a local station as an anchor for local identity may be fading. Audiences now turn to cable news, talk radio or the Internet for breaking news stories. 

Major sporting events, live news event coverage and even first run dramas and comedies, have migrated to "cable", with low cost alternatives starting to surface first run on the web. These were the stable revenue source, and audience draw for local network television affiliates.
Wall Street Journal journalist Sam Schechner and Rebecca Dana report that the economy, an erosion of audience, the declining syndication market (with programs now repeated on network owned cable "networks", DVD sales and web services such as Hulu). Competition from new media and more recently a major advertising recession, local stations are cutting budgets.

The debt ratio is another major factor, as profit margins above 50% drove sales of stations in the 1970's and 1980's for high price tags, still left hanging as money owed prior to salaries, programming or other investments. 

The "fairness doctrine" is a thing of the past, so spending time and money to show both sides is no longer mandatory for license renewal. Nor is there any obligation to air local news or public affairs. These staples of local television cost money, and are being reduced or cut entirely because of the bottom line,

So newsrooms are cutting jobs, sales commissions cut, decisions to remain with network instead of costly break always or covering local events become easier.  A trend toward joint operating agreements with other stations, including joining sales and support staff, using common newsrooms, and even blurring lines between what station you are actually watching ("news 3 at 10 on channel 9"), further changes the landscape for what were once strong local network affiliates.

The networks themselves have reduced funds paid to affiliates, made programming decisions without considering the impact on affiliates (can you say Jay Leno at ten), and found other revenue legs that make many local affiliates less vital then they were in the "broadcast era."

Even brand names have shifted, with reports that both NBC and CBS could change their names. In the case of NBC new majority owner COMCAST (itself changing its name to Xfinity) are looking seriously at the option of shifting NBC to Universal Networks, currently with serious focus groups and research into the shift. CBS, the oldest name in broadcasting, has already lost its formal name of “Columbia Broadcast Systems” and may change to a new name in 2012, possibly GTV for General Electric Television.

Actor Walter Koenig found dead in Vancouver park

Andrew Koenig played Richard "Boner" Stabone, at left, on the 1980s TV sitcom "Growing Pains."
Actor Andrew Koenig, missing since February 14, was found dead in Vancouver, British Colombia, Thursday, a source close to the family told CNN. The son of Star Trek Star Walter Koenig has appeared in numerous television, film and stage roles. He was also a frequent improvisational actor in comedy clubs.

Republicans do not budge on opposition to health care reform

Photo: Republicans say the country can't afford 
President Obama's health-care proposals.  
(Marvin Joseph/the Washington Post)
Highlights and link to full event:
Washington Post Column headline:

At summit, Republicans prove they aren't putting America's health first

The story basically points to the obvious fact that Republican leadership "think is that if there are Americans who can't afford the insurance policies that private insurers are willing to offer, then that's their problem -- there's nothing the government or the rest of us should do about it."

There is a very basic philosophic divide on the role of government and on compassion for those who hit unfortunate lows, despite rhetoric that says that they care about Americans though "tax cuts" and not taxing people who, in truth, are not making enough to care about taxes.

Republicans did not budge on health care and offered no alternative plan during the presidents summit i Washington DC, carried live on CSPAN.

That leaves us with no health care reform, rising health care costs and still facing pre-existing conditions, non-portable insurance and paying high COBRA if we lose our jobs.

Democrats may be able to pass some form of watered down bill if they can compromise with the house and Senate bills and use the cumbersome 'reconciliation' process to bypass a Republican fillibuster.

Apparently no one told congress that the people want progress and action in Washington. Winning elections in the fall seems more important than the health of Americans and reducing spiraling health cost (which are also the largest cost for government itself).