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Salhany to take FBC reins

The internal shuffling at Fox Inc. continued with confirmation that Lucie Salhany would become chairman of Fox Broadcasting Co., filling the void left by the announcement president-chief operating officer Jamie Kellner was leaving.

As part of the shift, Salhany, who had been chairman of Twentieth TV, will relinquish those responsibilities and the position won’t be filled.

Under the new structure, Twentieth’s heads of production and international and domestic distribution now reports directly to Fox Inc. exec VP-chief operatingofficer Chase Carey, who has supervised the Fox TV Stations group since the abrupt exit of Stephen Chao.

Salhany, 46, becomes the first woman to head a broadcast “network” (Fox doesn’t technically qualify under the current FCC definition) and assumes a title at FBC closer to that held by former chair-man-CEO Barry Diller than Kellner, who said Monday he’d discussed moving on for more than a year.

Salhany, who was president of syndication wing Paramount Domestic TV before joining Twentieth in July 1991, will be responsible for affiliate relations, sales, all business matters and programming, with recently appointed Fox Entertainment Group president Sandy Grushow and Fox Children’s Network chief Margaret Loesch reporting to her.

As a former programmer, she’ll likely be closely involved in the last area, where Kellner’s role was limited. Though the programming slot reported to Kellner on paper, during his recent tenure Peter Chernin answered directly to Diller and then to Fox topper Rupert Murdoch.

Significantly, by yielding her previous responsibilities, Salhany becomes solely a program buyer and won’t be in the position of selling shows to herself. “I have a concern about that,” she said, adding that the idea of keeping both jobs was never an issue.

News of Salhany’s appointment created its share of apprehension at Fox Broadcasting, with reportsSalhany has feuded at times with certain executives there in her most recent capacity, including a spat over “The Chevy Chase Show,” a planned latenight strip for next fall that Twentieth is producing for FBC.

Salhany, however, denied that there were any serious problems between Fox Broadcasting and Twentieth, saying there were “always different motivations” between buyers and sellers. Her first order of business in the new job, she said , will be “to get to know the people” at FBC.

Fox played big part

She added that the Fox network was “a big part” of what drew her to the company, having been involved in a joint Paramount-MCA attempt to launch an ad-hoc prime time network. Ironically, that effort was thwarted at the time largely through pressure by Fox on its stations not to clear the shows.

An outspoken advocate of the need to address TV’s harsh new economic realities, Salhany made headlines soon after arriving at Twentieth when she pulled the plug on its ABC series “Anything but Love” because she felt it lacked a future in syndication.

More recently, she irritated some in the agency community by arranging meetings with top agencies to explain the need for fiscal responsibility in network production.

Still, Salhany is a veteran station executive and programmer who understands both distribution and production, having launched such major Paramount first-run successes as “The Arsenio Hall Show” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and revitalized “Entertainment Tonight.””She’ll be the darling of the (Fox) affiliates,” one source said.

Salhany will get a chance to powwow with affiliates en masse at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention later this month and will make an appearance at Fox’s TV Critics Assn. this Friday. The event will also introduce many press to Grushow in his new capacity.

By relinquishing her direct involvement with Twentieth, Salhany doesn’t quite hold Diller’s power running both the production and program service arms at Fox (the names were changed to prevent confusion between the two), but she will undoubtedly still have influence at Twentieth, having hired domestic distribution chief Greg Meidel, production presidents Steve Bell andPeter Roth, and international sales head James Gianopulos.

Visibility improving

Meidel and Gianopulos were former Salhany allies at Paramount, and Bell worked with her years earlier at WLVI-TV in Boston. Those division heads will have greater visibility now within the company, since shifting Salhany removes a layer of management. It also may smooth any perceived rift between Twentieth and Fox Broadcasting.

Salhany started at Paramount in 1985, preceded by a six-year stint as VP of TV and cable programming at Taft Broadcasting. Before that she headed programming at WLVI and WKBF-TV in Cleveland, where she began her career.

In addition to overseeing production of Twentieth shows like “The Simpsons, “”Picket Fences” and “L.A. Law,” Salhany was behind new talk strip “The Bertrice Berry Show,” currently being sold into syndication for next fall. Salhany was reportedly on the verge of selling the show to NBC before opting for clearances on the Fox-owned stations and syndication at Murdoch’s urging.

Fox Broadcasting will add a sixth regular night of programming later this month and hopes to get its Monday movie running regularly to bring the weblet up to 7 nights a week of programming.

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