Fox, affils in latenight tiff

Amid reports that Howard Stern is no longer in the running for the Fox latenight slot, affiliates say they want the 11 p.m.-midnight hour back temporarily until the weblet can find a permanent replacement for the deposed Chevy Chase.

Fox sources, however, suggest reports that Stern has fallen out of the competition could be premature. An insider says thatStern not up to Par, DISH page 63

Stern and Fox chief Rupert Murdoch may be fueling the rumors because they don’t want to negotiate a deal in the public spotlight.

Either way, some Fox affils are reportedly preparing to downgrade reruns of “Code 3” and “In Living Color” to midnight (11 p.m. in the Midwest) during the February sweeps and replace the shows with syndicated fare whether Fox agrees to such moves or not.

That could be a boon for the syndicators of off-net sitcoms and dramas going into this month’s National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab in Miami.

It could also benefit some suppliers of latenight firstrun shows that may be so desperate for a clearance that they would take one on a temporary basis.

But Fox has been reluctant to return the time because of its previous experience with recalcitrant affils. The stations balked at giving back the hour following latenight flops with Joan Rivers and “The Wilton North Report.”

Chevy losses irksome

Station operators are upset, saying they lost a load on the short-lived Chase show and are now giving up half their advertising inventory to Fox for low-rating programs.

Affils in Central and Mountain time zones are taking the biggest hit since they can charge higher rates in the 10-11 p.m. hour.

If Fox is truly back to square one in its quest to find a latenight host, affiliates say they would be willing to strike a deal with Fox, promising to return the hour when Fox succeeds in finding a solid Chase replacement.

Fox officials have declined to comment on a possible temporary return of the latenight hour to affils, or on the widespread reports about Stern and Fox parting company.

The friendly FCC

From the beginning, there has been doubt that Murdoch would risk harming his friendly and lucrative relationship with the Federal Communications Commission by hiring Stern.

Murdoch recently received an FCC waiver to operate the New York Post as well as Fox-owned WNYW in the same market. Earlier, he received a financial interest and syndication waiver that permitted him to operate FBC 15 hours a week and keep the studio’s lucrative syndication wing.

Now, Murdoch reportedly has had second thoughts about Stern following a new round of FCC action against his employer.

In a costly move for Infinity Broadcasting, the Commission is delaying the approval of Infinity’s purchase of stations such as KRTH-FM until it hears new indecency complaints against the shock jock (Daily Variety, Jan. 3).

Stern’s raunchy but profitable pay-per-view New Year’s Eve special is also believed to have hurt his cause with Murdoch.

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