OK - once through the ol' Vidbit File, and then it's off to Lalaland for the annual summer network press tour . . .
* THE BEST NEWS to emerge from the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta last week is probably this: ABC looked at the outpouring of public apathy toward network convention coverage and announced that it is considering the possibility of cutting back its planned coverage of the Republican National Convention in New Orleans next month.Staged conventions like last week's affair, said ABC's Roone Arledge, "increases the cynicism about politics in this country, particularly among young people who look at this and just can't imagine that the windbags and speeches and demonstrations and orchestrated happenings are an important part of the political process.
"If the parties want to continue to do that, it's their business, not mine," Arledge said.
NBC's Larry Grossman, however, said his network will not cut back on coverage this year - "That would be unfair to the Republicans," he said - but will consider cutting back in 1992. And CBS officials say they will stick to the same schedule, no matter what. In fact, CBS News anchor Dan Rather said he'd "do more, not less" if he had his way.
And we all know what Dan does when he doesn't get his way. Get your video tapes ready to record more dead air on CBS.
* THE WALT DISNEY CO. has purchased its first television station, KHJ-TV Channel 9 in Los Angeles, for - are you ready for this? - $324 million. The sale clears the way for the station's previous owner, RKO General, to get rid of the rest of its broadcast chain - something it has been trying to do for almost 23 years, since the FCC started questioning the company's fitness as a broadcaster.
But let's go back to that dollar figure again - $324 million. You know, Utah has a Ch. 9, too - KULC, Utah's Learning Channel, which KUED has been using for some of its educational and other PBS programming. But does Utah really need a third PBS station? And couldn't a lot of money be generated for education if the licensing rights were sold? No, I don't think anyone is going to pay $324 million for a channel frequency in Utah. But the going rate for VHF licenses around the country is somewhere between $70 and $80 million. Wouldn't that be a nice, tidy little sum to line the state's educational coffers?
* AND SPEAKING OF KULC: KUED officials indicate that some remodeling work at the U. of U.'s Gardner Hall, home base for both KUED and KULC, will force Ch. 9 off the air for almost a month. So don't plan on seeing anything on KULC - educational or otherwise - until about Aug. 22.
* CBS, struggling to regain its position as the Tiffany Network, has done a little corporate restructuring aimed at strengthening its news division and giving the overall company a young, more dynamic leadership. CBS News president Howard Stringer has been promoted to president of the CBS Broadcast Group, replacing Gene F. Jankowski, who has been named chairman of the group. Stringer is replaced in the news division by David Burke, the much-respected vice president of ABC News for the past two years.
Industry sources on both coasts are praising the move, indicating that Stringer will give CBS more energy generally, and that Burke will be a strong addition to the already top-ranked news network. Even Dan Rather says he's excited about it. Believe it or not.
* ALSO AT CBS, the writers' strike is going to be battled this fall by troops from England and Australia, and an attempt at something that hasn't been done on a weekly basis for years - live television.
CBS Entertainment President Kim LeMasters announced late last week that his revised fall schedule will include:
- Jake's Journey, an English sitcom starring "Monty Python's" Graham Chapman as a cranky old knight who lives in a parallel world that is part medieval and part fantasy. ("The Charmings" meet "Beauty and the Beast," perhaps?)
- Dolphin Bay, an hour long Australian series about an American scientist who moves down under with his two kids to work on a new system that will allow communication between humans and dolphins.
- High Risk, a magazine show that focuses on people with unique and sometimes dangerous occupations and hobbies.
- A new variety show being hosted by Dick Clark. They're going to try to do this one live each week. This show will feature performers - musicians, comedians and so forth - who write their own material, so there won't be any trouble with the Writer's Guild.
* HERMAN WOUK has clout. He must. Who else would be able to work a deal with a network giving him control over what kind of commercials will appear during his miniseries?
Wouk has such an agreement with ABC, which means that when the first 18 hours of his "War & Remembrance" airs in November you won't be seeing ads for fast food, medical products, bathroom cleaners, soaps or feminine hygiene products. Wouk has also banned 15-second commercials, and has limited ABC to 13 rather than the usual 14 commercial units each hour.
Still, ABC has already sold about half of the available commercial time for "War & Remembrance" - at $250,000 per 30-second spot.
* AND WOUK ISN'T THE ONLY ONE who doesn't like feminine hygiene commercials. According to a recent survey by Advertising Age magazine, "nothing else known to man or woman send viewers scrambling to change channels faster" than those ads. The women-oriented commercials finished at the top of the men's hate list and number two - behind beer and alcohol ads - on the women's list.
* THE SEOUL OLYMPIC Organizing Committee ought to be relegated to javelin-catching duty for its refusal to allow NBC to sell TV rights to certain Olympic events to cable television. The proposal would have allowed someone like ESPN to come in and televise events that don't get much coverage during the big network telecasts - baseball, soccer, field hockey and the like.
But because the committee was worried about fragmenting the U.S. audience, they have forced viewers to accept the traditional network blitz of "popular" Olympic sports like gymnastics, track and field, swimming, basketball and volleyball, while the lesser sports - or sports that take too much time to cover in their entirety - are reduced to a few minutes of taped highlights as time fillers here and there.
* TAKE HEART, "SPENSER" FANS: Syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck is reporting that the ongoing writers' strike has prompted ABC to consider bringing back "Spenser: For Hire" with new episodes that were already almost completely scripted before the series was canceled.
* VIDBITS: Colleen Dudgeon was recently named news director at WBBM-TV in Chicago, becoming the first female news director at a network-owned station . . . America's Most Wanted is being credited with its 28th arrest after a fugitive charged with slaying his wife in Louisiana was picked up in El Centro, Calif., last week. Robert Wayne Fisher was turned in by roommates, who watched Fox's real-life crime show while he slept . . . Now that CBS basketball analyst Billy Cunningham has decided to stay with the Miami Heat, word swirling around New York is that he will be replaced on next season's NBC telecasts by the Dr. J himself, Julius Erving . . . Ted Koppel has finally signed a three-year contract with ABC . . . ABC foreign correspondent Pierre Salinger has been named the network's senior editor in Europe, whatever that means . . .