Twentieth TV is laying the groundwork to pull “MASH” out of syndication and steer it to Fox’s wholly owned FX cable network. The shift, which would give FX exclusive rights to the 255 episodes of the series for a number of years, won’t happen until fall 1998, when all of the syndication contracts with individual TV stations expire. Twentieth wouldn’t comment, and Anne Sweeney, chairman and CEO of the FX Networks, just said, “This is one of the options we’re considering.”

Walt Disney Television & Telecommunications chairman Rich Frank said the studio is not going to get involved in the Federal Communications Commission’s review of so-called local marketing agreements (LMAs).

Frank expressed concern about LMAs – which basically allow one broadcaster to program two stations in a market – during a panel Monday but stressed that those remarks should be taken in the context of a debate on the primetime access rule and the broadcast industry overall, and reiterated that the studio is not taking a position on LMAs.

Former “A Current Affair” host Maureen O’Boyle is joining Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution and Telepictures’ “Extra – The Entertainment Magazine” as weekend anchor and senior news reporter. O’Boyle’s contract includes a deal with Telepictures to develop a talkshow or magazine show, although it is unclear if Telepictures is committed to shooting a pilot.

The Walt Disney Co. has gained another Hollywood ally in its bid to change the primetime access rule, with MCA Inc. preparing to file comments at the FCC in support of the Disney effort to modify PTAR. Disney, Fox and MCA are now on record in support of PTAR revision. MCA Inc. exec VP Tom Wertheimer said his firm supports repeal of the portion of PTAR that blocks top market network affils from carrying off-network reruns. MCA favors retaining lingo in the reg barring networks from programming the entire four hours of primetime, Wertheimer said.

E! Entertainment Television is about to become the “Melrose Place” network.

The basic cable web has inked its most high-profile programming deal yet – securing the off-network rights to the Spelling primetime soap beginning in fall ’96.

E! is said to be paying more than $200,000 per episode for 100-plus installments of the series over its first four seasons.

“Melrose” marks the first time E! has bought a dramatic hour series directly off a network.

Democrats in Congress are preparing for a titanic battle to preserve federal funding for public broadcasting, a key aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said Jan. 23.

Speaking before an audience of INTV convention attendees, Dingell staffer David Leach said Republican efforts to “zero out” federal aid to pubcasting is “patently irresponsible.” Democrats will “fight in every way” to continue the funding, Leach said. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Senate Commerce Committee chairman Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) have targeted the Corp. for Public Broadcasting for possible elimination from the federal budget. Gingrich has labeled public broadcasting “elitist.”

CPB now receives $285 million a year from the government, 14% of the industry’s budget.

If the Republicans do get their way in the PBS fight, Big Bird may be adopted by one of the nation’s largest cable companies.

Glenn Jones, chairman of Jones Intercable, said Monday the Colorado-based company’s educational unit would like to take over PBS.

Jones’ comments came in response to suggestions by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and the Senate’s key GOP telecommunications architect, Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), that public broadcasting might be privatized.

PBS had no specific comment on Jones’ proposal. However, PBS president Ervin Duggan generally opposes privatization of the service.

Bell Atlantic also has expressed general interest in taking over the Corp. for Public Broadcasting.

Columbia TriStar Television Distribution has cleared new talker “Tempestt” with Tempestt Bledsoe in the top three markets and in markets reaching more than 50% of the United States.

Chris Craft picked up the show for its WWOR New York and KCOP in L.A. Chicago’s WPWR, which just renewed CTTD’s “Ricki Lake,” also snagged “Tempestt.”

The syndication wing of the Walt Disney Studios confirmed that it is rolling out a new one-hour daytime talk strip for fall with Danny Bonaduce, the former “Partridge Family” member.

Buena Vista Television launched the series after securing clearances on the Chris Craft/United stations in New York (WWOR) and L.A. (KCOP).

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