News suffering, Kennard sez

NBC confirms new 'Days' deal

SAN ANTONIO — The continuing trend of broadcast consolidation is hurting the quality of TV news reporting, FCC chairman William Kennard argued Friday in a speech to news chiefs at the annual Radio and TV News Directors Assn. confab here.

Also Friday, NBC and Columbia TriStar officially announced their new five-year deal to keep the studio’s long-running sudser “Days of Our Lives” on the Peacock through 2004 (Daily Variety, Sept. 25.)

Kennard, who made his comments at a lunchtime speech, said that “usually, when broadcasters come before the FCC and argue for more consolidation, they say more consolidation will mean more and better quality news and public affairs programming. … [But] your own reports tell me that consolidation causes broadcast owners to cut back on serious reporting and replace it with fluff and syndicated news.”

Kennard noted recent reports of cutbacks and layoffs at the webs, saying, “Everybody seems to be cost-cutting.”

“More and more has to go to the botton line,” Kennard complained. “Seems like no station is immune.”

Kennard cautioned that he doesn’t believe government should step in to fix the problem of declining coverage.

“As chairman of the FCC, I will never seek to inject my agency into the content of news coverage,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kennard said the FCC and the Justice Dept. are now deciding whether to appeal a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision essentially throwing out the FCC’s equal employment opportunity rules.

Whatever happens, “We will continue the struggle to bring diversity to America’s newsrooms,” he said.

Friday’s announcment of the NBC-Col TriStar deal revealed that the Peacock will pay an estimated $1.6 million-$1.8 million per week for “Days” — a roughly 50% hike from its current pricetag of around $1.2 million weekly. NBC also has an option to renew the show, which has been with the Peacock since its 1965 bow, for another five years.

The future of “Days” has been in doubt since last January, following the first published reports that Columbia TriStar and NBC were both serious about ending their relationship if a deal favorable to both sides could not be worked out. Indeed, once NBC’s exclusive negotiating period ended over the summer, ABC made a serious run for “Days.”

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