Redstone's Absence Heats Up Rumor Mill

Viacom held their earnings conference call yesterday and Sumner Redstone was a no-show on the call. 

The 91-year-old media mogul, who is said to be in poor health, failed to be on the call.

The absence of the limelight-loving billionaire is bound has set off another round of speculation about the future of his media empire that spans entertainment powerhouses Viacom and CBS.

Redstone, the controlling shareholder of both companies, sounded feeble during Viacom’s earlier conference call in November. Since then, media bankers have been shopping strategies for winning control of either or both companies in the event Redstone steps aside.

With questions swirling around his health, a company spokesman told The Post late last year that Redstone was still “sharp as a tack.”

Redstone controls CBS and Viacom through National Amusements, but when he’s gone, a trust will assume control of his voting shares.

Still, it’s unclear who will run the trust as Redstone, who turns 92 in May, has battled publicly with both his children, his ex-wives and with various executives who appeared to challenge his power.

While senior executives are not required to be present on every earnings call, Redstone has been a domineering presence, making his absence all the more acute.

By the way, the earnings news for Viacom was not very good. The company reported revenue that fell short of expectations, weighed down by lower ratings and weaker ad revenue. Domestic ad revenue fell 6 percent, with cable networks MTV and Comedy Central hard hit.

H/T NY Post

TV Agent to Marry his Client

TV Agent John Ferriter is getting married to one of his clients (ethics be damed).

Ferriter asked KVOA (Tucson) Weekend Anchor Rebecca Taylor (Chrzanowski) to marry him and she said yes.

Apparently, Ferriter's unemployed TV client Piers Morgan approves:

And so does Ferriter's dog:

Between Piers and the dog there is a joke in there somewhere, but it's Friday and I'm tired. So, I'll let it pass. 

Longtime St. Louis Anchor to Retire

It's Ratings...Everyone announce you're retiring!

Earlier we told you that longtime Ft. Wayne Anchor Melissa Long announced on the first day of the Feb. Book that she was retiring at the end of the year.

Because you know, you can never announce news like that outside of ratings.

Well, Long wasn't the only one.

After 40+ years of experience as a broadcast journalist, KTVI (St. Louis) Anchor Tom O’Neal announced that he is also hanging it up.

Although it's January, O'Neal said he would not be stepping down until July.  He co-anchors KTVI's 2 weeknights at 5:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M. Newscast. 

 “Tom O’Neal is a winner, a great competitor, and a true professional,” said Spencer Koch, President & General Manager of KTVI FOX 2 & KPLR 11. “His contributions to the community, his service to our viewers, and his dedication to his craft are legendary. Tom’s leadership has helped take our newscasts to a new level, and for that we are grateful,” added Koch.

 "It's been a great run, and I've been very fortunate to work in the same town for 40 years,” said O’Neal. “It's hard to beat the wonderful people in St. Louis and the talented people I've worked with over the years. I'll still be around, just taking it a little easier," he added.

The station also announced that they have hired O'Neal's replacement. Vic Faust joins KTVI coming from WXYZ in Detroit, where he currently co-anchors the morning and noon news programs.

He will join the FOX 2 News team April 13, 2015 as a reporter and will replace O’Neal in July.

Signing Off in Ft. Wayne

Longtime WPTA (Ft. Wayne) Anchor Melissa Long says that this is her last year behind the anchor desk.

Although she won't retire for months and months it was the first day of the Feb book and it was time to start it off with a bang. 

Long has worked for more than 30 years in local broadcasting.

“Deciding to retire from a job and career I've loved for more than 30 years was wasn't easy, but I know in my heart it is the right time for me,” Long said in a WPTA news release. “I am tremendously grateful to the viewers who have given me a sliver of their time each day. I truly feel you are all part of my family.”

“I have so much respect and admiration for Melissa, it’s hard to put it into words,” Don Osika, WPTA/WISE president and general manager, said in the news release. “I’ve met many special people in my career, but there are those rare occasions when someone really makes an impact on you. For me, Melissa is one of those. She’s strong, dedicated and genuine. She will be missed.”

Of course, you can wait about 11 moths before you start missing her. 

H/T News Sentinel 

Now Low for MSNBC's Ed

MSNBC's the Ed show set a rating record, but don't expect anyone at the show to be too excited.

The record was for low ratings, not high. 

The Ed Show pulled in a new low of 35K in the 25-54 demo on Wednesday, making it by far the lowest rated show across all of cable news.

In its 5 p.m. time slot, CNN’s The Situation Room had nearly 5 times as many viewers with 156K and Fox News’ The Five had nearly 10 times as many with 331K. 

Ouch!

H/T Mediaite

Al Sharpton Pays Himself Big while Still Owing Taxes

In a new tax filing, Al Sharpton’s not-for-profit organization reports that despite skyrocketing revenue, it ran a hefty deficit, was forced to borrow nearly $200,000 from the reverend himself, and even saw the group’s long-delinquent Internal Revenue Service bill grow.

The Smoking Gun says that the latest glimpse into the shaky finances of the National Action Network (NAN) comes via the organization’s latest tax return,which was signed in mid-November by Sharpton, the group’s president, CEO, and highest-paid employee. The return, which covers 2013, describes Sharpton’s outfit as a “Christian activist social justice organization.”

According to the IRS return and an accompanying financial statement, NAN’s revenue--generated primarily through corporate sponsorships--topped $4.9 million, nearly $900,000 more than the prior year. However, the organization’s spending outpaced revenues, leaving NAN with a deficit of $264,000 for the year (which pushed its total liabilities to $1.337 million).

The Sharpton group’s largest debt remains its IRS tab for nonpayment of years worth of federal payroll taxes, as well as assorted interest and penalties for late or non-filing of tax forms. NAN’s federal tax liability rose slightly in 2013 to about $820,000.

A financial statement prepared by NAN’s accountant in November notes that the group recently “negotiated an installment agreement” that requires it to pay $15,000-a-month for five years to make good on its tax debt. A prior financial statement claimed that Sharpton’s group had been negotiating with the IRS over its unpaid taxes since February 2010.

Sharpton, 60, individually owes several million dollars in unpaid state and federal taxes, according to a recent New York Times report.

Sharpton--who banks hefty paychecks for his MSNBC program, his radio show, and who knows what else--paid himself $241,545 at his non-profit organization.

Looks like someone is profiting at the non-profit.

Report Disputes Hacking Claims by Former CBS Reporter

A Justice Department report is disputing hacking allegations by former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

Attkisson claims the government hacked into her personal computer and work laptops were remotely accessed due to her reporting on topics including the Fast and Furious scandal and the terror attacks in Benghazi.

Attkisson provided the inspector general's office with recorded videos showing the screen of her CBS-issued laptop.

One video showed what was determined to be a standard error prompt, the report said. A second video that showed text from a document she was creating on a Macbook laptop being deleted without her apparent involvement actually "appeared to be caused by the backspace key being struck, rather than a remote intrusion," according to the report.

The Justice Department's report said, "the OIG's investigation was not able to substantiate the allegations that Attkisson's computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise."

H/T AP

Former NBC Executive Could Be Headed to Jail

A prominent TV exec could spend his weekends behind bars if he doesn’t stop being a deadbeat dad, according to an appeals court ruling released Thursday.

The NY Daily News says that Douglas Holloway, president of ION Media Networks and a former NBC honcho, was chastised by an appellate panel for trying to hide financial assets and bailing on child support and alimony payments in his acrimonious divorce.

The bad behavior could land Holloway, 60, in jail on weekends for 20 days, according to the Manhattan Appellate Division decision.

The panel voted unanimously to uphold rulings by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ellen Gesmer, who found the executive in contempt and awarded his ex-wife two thirds of the couple’s $8 million marital estate, above average child support, and legal fees.

Gesmer found that ever since Leota Branche, 57, of Westchester County, filed to end her 18-year marriage in 2008, Holloway has engaged in “egregious economic fault” by “liquidating, dissipating or failing to account for more than $2 million in assets which represents approximately 25% of the marital estate.”

After a 10-day trial, Gesmer also found that Holloway failed to disclose various accounts and increased liens on the family’s home in violation of her order to not do that.

“The finding of criminal contempt against (Holloway) is overwhelmingly supported by the record which includes evidence of his willful failure to pay the child and spousal support,” the appellate panel wrote.

Public records show that Branche’s lawyers have put liens against Holloway for roughly $100,000 in unpaid fees and his wife claims he owes her at least $118,000.