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Monday, July 23, 2012

Pubcaster's topper says there are 'implications for country' if money is denied

PBS' Kerger remains concerned about funding

Fear Republican Victory will mean deeper cuts or severance of all funds...stations going dark...Sesame Street in Danger...

On the opening day of the summer Television Critics Assn. tour, PBS president-CEO Paula Kerger said there are "real implications for us as a country" if the government eliminates funding for the pubcaster.
Net also announced at the BevHilton that longtime documentarian Ken Burns has produced another historically based project titled "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," which will air in 2014. The seven-part, 14-hour film will weave the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Burns' "The Dust Bowl" airs Nov. 18 later this year.

As for PBS' often precarious funding, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has previously stated he believes PBS should be ad-funded, not kept financially solvent by the feds.

"We're not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird is going to have advertisements, all right," Romney said late last year on the campaign trail.

Kerger, expecting the question about how PBS will remain financially solvent if Romney is elected, said: I'm not sure there's a press tour where I haven't talked about this issue. It's disappointing to me the value that people place on public broadcasting. In the same week where we were awarded 58 Emmys, the question of whether investment is appropriate is disappointing."

Kerger said 15% of PBS' funding comes from the government, the rest from private donations. If that 15% were to be eliminated, the net's topper was concerned many stations that carry PBS -- specifically ones in more rural areas -- could go dark.

"At end of the day, I know it's not my voice that is going to make a difference, but the voice of constituents," she said.

Focusing on upcoming programming, net announced "Cuban Missile Crisis -- Three Men Go to War." On the 50th anni on the event that had the world on the brink of nuclear war, the special will air at 8 p.m. Oct 23, immediately followed by "Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World," which reveals the story behind a Russian submarine that refused to fire a nuclear missile during the crisis between Russia and the United States.

The huge success of British aristocratic drama "Downton Abbey" was accelerated by social media, said Kerger. While also giving credit to the show's cast, script and production values, Kerger compared the "Downton" phenomenon to that of PBS' 1981 miniseries hit "Brideshead Revisited."
Said Kerger: "People came together," in talking about "Downton" -- both literally, in watching episodes in groups, and discussing on Facebook and Twitter. "It hit at a certain time and people were able to talk about it with social media."

As for greenlighting more dramas that might resonate as well as "Downton," Kerger was hesitant to say PBS would put significant resources aside when many other networks are offering quality programming as well.

"There are drama challenges. It's expensive, though we've been able to forge some co-production arrangements," she said. "We have spent a lot of time looking at the overall media landscape and figuring out where the gaps and market failures are. We need to focus on what we think can make a difference, like children's programming."

With that kid focus being a major component of PBS' daily lineup, Kerger said, "We have to think about the images children see" when asked about how the Colorado shootings would resonate with those who are too young to understand the gravity of the situation.

When addressed about why Fred Willard -- arrested last week for suspicion of lewd conduct in an adult theater -- was fired as narrator of the new show "Market Warriors," Kerger said the series was in mid-production and couldn't wait to see how the actor's legal situation would unfold.

Contact Stuart Levine at

50 Years Ago, Telstar Debuted Live Video From Space

Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel note that the first satellite to bounce TV pictures from Europe to the U.S. and back was inaugurated 50 years ago on Monday. Telstar allowed live images to be seen instantly on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Fifty years ago on this date, space became TV-friendly. It was one small moment for an orbiting satellite called Telstar 1, one big leap for couch potatoes everywhere.

WALTER CRONKITE: This is North American continent live via AT&T Telstar, July 23, 1962, 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the East. The New York skyline on the Atlantic Ocean. On the West, 3,000 miles away, San Francisco. Between these two oceans, 180 million Americans have begun another week.

That was the late CBS TV news anchor Walter Cronkite, proclaiming a major media moment. The world had already put satellites in Earth orbit, flung chimpanzees and astronauts around the globe, but Telstar was a milestone. It allowed live TV pictures to bounce back and forth between America and Europe.

CRONKITE: Eurovision. Eurovision, we are now putting up our Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on the left side of our monitor. If you'll please put up your Eiffel Tower in Paris next to it, we're going to wait for your signal that's been completed. We'll go on that signal.

RICHARD DIMBLEBY: Hello, Walter Cronkite. Hello, United States. On my television screen here in Brussels, I have on the left-hand side the Statue of Liberty. On the right-hand side, the Eiffel Tower. They are both together. It's clear. So go, America, go. Go, America, go.

SIEGEL: That was the BBC's Richard Dimbleby, who was on the other end of the line in Europe.
CORNISH: Telstar was the first step to our modern world and, within a month of its debut, the UK band The Tornadoes would score a hit with a song inspired by the communications satellite. Telstar became the first U.S. number one hit by a British group.


"We must not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness." 

-James Thurber, 1894 – 1961

Steve Jobs - sample presentation (final)


Fears Republican victory could kill Sesame Street. DreamWorks Animation buys "Casper" & "Lassie". Strong start for Batman.

'Casper the Friendly Ghost'
Classic Media character "Casper the Friendly Ghost" was among the titles acquired by DreamWorks Animation. (Shout! Factory / Classic Media)
DreamWorks Animation, the Glendale-based studio behind the "Shrek" and "Madagascar" movies, is buying Classic Media, a company that owns the rights to "Casper the Friendly Ghost," "Lassie," "The Lone Ranger" and other iconic entertainment characters, for $155 million.

DreamWorks Animation announced the all-cash deal early Monday morning.
The deal marks the first acquisition for the studio since it went public in 2004.

"Classic Media brings a large and diverse collection of characters and branded assets that is extremely complementary to DreamWorks Animation's franchise business, and we plan to leverage it across our motion picture, television, home entertainment, consumer products, digital theme park and live entertainment channels,'' DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg in a statement.

New York City-based Classic Media licenses many of its characters to studios, including the Walt Disney Co., which is making "The Lone Ranger," a big-budget live-action movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer that will be released next year. DreamWorks also is making a movie based on the animated characters "Mr. Peabody and Sherman," due out Christmas 2013. Classic Media manages the characters in a joint venture with Jay Ward Productions.

DreamWorks was among at least six bidders for Classic Media, an $82-million-a-year company that owns more than 450 family titles, including "Frosty the Snowman," "George of the Jungle," "Rocky & Bullwinkle" and contemporary bestsellers such as "VeggieTales." Founded in 2000, the company is owned by Boomerang Media Holdings, part of the portfolio of private equity firm GTCR, which sources said had been eager to cash out its investment.

Classic Media Co-Chief Executives Eric Ellenbogen, a former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, and John Engelman will run the company, but now as a division of DreamWorks. The sale was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday night.

The Dark Knight Rises
"The Dark Knight Rises" is off to a strong start. (Warner Bros. )
After the coffee. Before Fox's TV press tour.

The Skinny: The summer TV press tour has started. I've gone from being an obnoxious kid in a room of old reporters to an obnoxious older reporter. But I still have my hair! Monday's headlines include a recap of the box office, DreamWorks buys Classic Media, and NBC and Twitter team up to promote the Olympics.

Daily Dose: The Olympics will start this week and with the games streamed online and social media doing its part to report results before the masses have actually seen the events, how NBC does with its prime-time package of taped highlights will be very telling. Will social media build anticipation for events and drive viewers to see what they missed or will online viewing skyrocket and cannibalize the evening ratings and diminish the value of the games as a TV platform? I'm an optimist (yes, I said that with a straight face) so I am hopeful it will be the former and not the latter.

Sesame Street or Sponsorship Street? Public Broadcasting System Chief Executive Paula Kerger is worried that PBS could lose its funding in a Republican administration. Speaking to reporters at the Television Critics Assn. press tour here in Los Angeles on Sunday, Kerger warned that if the 15% of funds PBS gets from the government were to be removed, many of its stations would have to go off the air. More from Variety.

Gold medal for tweeting. NBC, home of the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in London, has entered into a broad marketing agreement with the social networking site Twitter. The move is also an effort to create a single home on Twitter for Olympic-related material from athletes, commentators and fans. Twitter hopes the games will give it a chance to showcase its platform to advertisers. Details on the agreement from the Wall Street Journal.

Defining Yahoo. As former Google executive Marissa Mayer prepares to become chief executive of Yahoo, one of the first things she'll need to do is figure out just what the company is about. Is it a search engine? Is it a Web portal? New York Times columnist David Carr suggests if anything, Yahoo is a news company and that it shouldn't squander the opportunity that it has.

Nothing to see here. Over the weekend, some breathless headlines emerged about News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch resigning from the boards of some of his newspaper units. Don't read much into it, says Murdoch watcher Andrew Neil in the Daily Beast. Neil notes that the boards had "no power and very rarely meet. They're boilerplate corporate structures masking the fact Murdoch is in complete control of his U.K. papers." Now that Murdoch is splitting News Corp. into two separate companies -- one for publishing and one for entertainment -- the need for these mostly symbolic boards will no longer exist.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Patrick Goldstein on the connection between art and tragedy.
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