A guy sees a violent movie on TV, then shoots his brother. Who's fault? They couldn't care less at WSVN in Miami. The TV station has now dropped all normal news and only runs stories about violent crime or road accidents. Surprise! WSVN has shot to the top of the ratings. More than 60 per cent of the station's news footage features scenes of explicit carnage and advertisers have flocked to it because it has carved a big niche among young viewers, especially women. WSVN revenues have leapt by more than 40 per cent since adopting "if it bleeds, it leads" as its news philosophy. But the experiment has TV experts worried. "This is a copy-cat industry," says Bruce Northcott, president at Frank Magid Associates, an advertising consultancy firm. "We'll see more of this. Format always follows money." That may explain offers flooding to WSVN anchor Rick Sanchez, who delivers headlines in his shirtsleeves.
Violence may cost one talk-show a bundle of money. Tabloid talkster Jenny Jones titled one of her shows Secret Admirers last March. Jonathan Schmitz (heterosexual) was induced on the show by the offer of a date. His admirer turned out to be a gay colleague called Scott Amedure. Schmitz said he felt "embarrassed and humiliated" by the Jones ruse. Three days later, he blew away his admirer with a shotgun. Schmitz is now on remand for the murder and Amedure's parents are suing the Jenny Jones Show along with distributor Time Warner for $25m. A spokesperson for Warner Brothers said the death was a tragedy but, she added, "we have nothing to be ashamed of." Hmmm.
Ralph Lauren's son has a magazine plaything called Swing. The title, for twentysomethings, was launched just over a year ago, and despite big backing from Lauren senior, it is struggling. Oddly, the bulk of the advertising features Ralph Lauren products. It seems advertisers without a family connection are put off by the superficial writing and reheated exclusives, not to mention the mix of bad grammar and Reader's Digest homilies. Maybe JF Kennedy Jr will do better. The son of President Kennedy launches his family money mag next month. Called George, it will cover Washington politics, but hopes are not high. One advertiser who rang the George office complained that the staff sounded like Swing rejects.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has a beef with Rupert Murdoch and could yet derail his efforts to own a US TV network. The US has strict federal limits on foreign ownership of US networks, which Murdoch contravened. The Federal Communications Commission awarded Murdoch a waiver. One insider said the FCC members offered Murdoch all the resistance of a doormat. The NAACP protests that African-Americans have insufficient access to TV ownership and that Murdoch's ownership of Fox TV is a further obstacle. Last week, the NAACP filed notice in the US Court of Appeals it would sue against the FCC waiver unless the FCC reconsiders.
TV hits ER and NYPD Blue are set to sweep the board at the annual Emmy awards next month. ER has 23 nominations - an Emmy record. The cop show comes second with 13.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Law (Rico) was passed to counter the Mafia. So why is it being used against Time Warner? Gangsta rap label Interscope, half-owned by TW, has filed a Rico suit against TW. It says TW chairman Gerald Levin and Warner Music president Michael Fuchs conspired to lure away Death Row records, an independent rap label currently distributed by Interscope. Extreme rappers such as Snoop Doggy Dogg are on the Death Row label. TW has been embarrassed by a campaign against gangsta rap by leading black liberal Dolores Tucker. But in a bizarre twist, she too is included in the Rico suit. Interscope executives say Tucker acted as TW's intermediary to offer an $80m deal to Death Row Records to enable them to set up their own distribution network and sever any connection with TW. The plan was to distance TW's Interscope investment from rappers like Snoop Doggy Dogg. It is claimed that Tucker has promised to stop her campaign against TW if it can disassociate itself from Death Row Records. Time Warner say the Rico suit has "no merit" but it's bound to keep the controversy alive.
Who are the rudest people in Hollywood? Los Angeles magazine Buzz has identified Hollywood's 10 biggest bullies. These include James Wood, Oliver Stone and Whoopi "do your fucking job" Goldberg. But the number one slot goes to movie producer Joel Silver, whose staff apparently walk on eggshells. Last month, he turned on a producer and screamed: "I'm going to bury you - and your husband - 10 feet underground! In Burbank! And you'll never be heard from again!" This tirade could apparently be heard in the car park three stories below Silver's window.