Through The Wire: Send Them John Malones E-Mail Address

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Ever wonder how consumers are getting their impressions ofyour business? Well, some teens may be learning about upcoming channels and how tocomplain about their cable service by logging onto bad.cable. It's a link from Urbanpig, which bills itself as the place for teens. At bad.cable,teens can learn about upcoming satellite-network launches, sound off about their cablecompanies and even get cost comparisons of direct-broadcast satellite. We especially likedthe cheeky, one-sentence descriptions of programming services, such as this summation ofthe upcoming Martial Arts Action Network: "Mommy, let's watch thosepeople kick ass!" The Q&As need a little fact-checking: The Webmaster advised onecarping teen to complain to state utility regulators, but failed to add that theregulatory authority (local franchising authority) is printed on the cable bill.

Suppose they had a hearing and everybody came, includingthe clueless. It seems that several Los Angelenos who claimed to be interested citizensshowed up at a Jan. 15 meeting of technology commissioners, where open modem access was onthe docket. The residents signed up to speak in favor of the transfer of TCI's cableproperties to AT&T, but when they addressed the regulators, many of them showedwoeful ignorance of the issue at hand. A few confessed that they don't use theInternet, and that they could not name their cable operator. Asked how they came to attendthe meeting, the audience members said they read about it in the newspaper. It was oddthat people so ill-informed would take the initiative to find the location of the meeting(it was not in the regular place) and pay up to $13 to park and join the bureaucrats.Commissioners said they wanted to look into whether the "interested citizens"had been asked to attend.

TBS' new original primetime series, Channel of the Apes,is about a fictional TV network run by real chimps and orangutans, with wardrobes and wigsto fit their parts. One character -- an aging celebrity interviewer with a show called MurrayPrince Live -- is an orangutan with a striped shirt, suspenders, speech patterns,eyeglasses and multiple marriages, bearing a resemblance to a certain primetime host onCNN. At the TCA tour, the show's execs initially denied that Murray was based on"anyone" -- namely Larry King. Then producer Skot Bright described Murray as"an opinionated individual who can't keep his mouth shut or his opinions to himself,and who is a consummate ladies man, in his mind, which is probably the reason why he'sbeen married eight or 12 times." But when critics pursued the matter, Jim Head, TBS'senior VP of original programming, finally came clean, without naming names, saying thatthe "employee" -- presumably King -- had seen the Murray Prince character."He's the biggest fan of the show, actually," Head said.

USA Networks is hoping to wrestle viewers away from FoxSports' Jan. 31 Super Bowl halftime show. USA will pre-empt its regular programming athalftime to air a 20-minute World Wrestling Federation championship match. The eventwill last as long as Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan perform in Miami. In fact, USA willfeature a countdown clock during the match to alert viewers when to switch back to thegame.


By Linda Haugsted, from bureau reports.

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