Meredith Vieira McDonald’s Drive Through Prank On Today Show (VIDEO)

The Today Show introduced a new series this morning called "Today Show Gets A Laugh." In the first segment co-host Meredith Vieira donned the uniform of a McDonald's drive through attendant who was "less than accommodating."

While some customers appeared uncertain how to react, and others simply drove away rather than deal with the hassle, Vieira said the lesson she drew was how nice people could remain while she did her utmost to be obnoxious.


Foxy Headines in the New Journal

The Murdoch Street Journal has been a slow-motion overhaul, and it takes a minute sometimes to realize that things you skim over today would never have appeared a couple of years ago. “State Death Taxes Are the Latest Worry” “Death tax” isn’t a neutral word so it shouldn’t be used in the news columns, particularly when others are available....

Pay walls never may come at some papers

The resolve to charge for most interactive content is dissolving at some newspapers, potentially thwarting the plans of other publishers who still hope to erect pay walls on their sites. Despite determined statements by several publishers earlier this year that they intended to make consumers pay for the valuable content newspapers have given away for more than a decade,

Twitter: Rea-list/Idea-list

Twitter is listless no more. Following in the footsteps of Facebook, Twitter has given its users the ability to sort other Twitter users into lists. "The idea is to allow people to curate lists of Twitter accounts," Twitter’s list feature project lead, Nick Kallen (@nk), explained. For example, you could create a list...

Sex Watch? Uncensored Breast Exams Provide Public Service — And Ratings

bare.breasts.dcA DC local news station, WJLA, has gotten into hot water in some quarters for airing a bare-breasted, unpixelated guide to breast self-exams. Critics say it’s a salacious ratings ploy, but defenders say it’s a valuable public service. Could it be a little bit of both?

The segment has found a formidable defender in Elizabeth Edwards, who has stage IV breast cancer and who criticizes her lack of breast health education for the unchecked progression of the disease early on (at the 2:00 mark in the Dr. Nancy clip below):

“We need to desensitize people about some things. This is the cancer most likely to strike women… For us to be squeamish about showing how it is we stop the attack on our individual bodies, I think, is foolhardy. We need to be prepared.”

But is a beneficial public health announcement tarnished if the local news station that runs it plays up its salacious elements (cf. the alarming red band warning on the video below; the Skinemax-ish synth soundtrack and electric pink background with which the series opens up) and tellingly holds off on running it until the beginning of Nielsen’s November sweeps, which run from October 29th to November 25th this year?

WJLA’s general manager Bill Lord frankly told The Washington Post that ratings were a factor in the station’s programming decisions: “‘People will say we’re doing it just for ratings,’ he said. ‘But we’re a commercial television station — we’re trying to get people to watch us. Yes, this is an attention-getting story, but it’s also an important story.’”

Speaking on Dr. Nancy, Dr. Robert Schenk made the point that even though the series and the buildup to it “clearly” seemed engineered to bolster WJLA’s ratings, that might not be such a bad thing: it would only ensure that a valuable piece of public health education would reach a bigger audience.

WJLA’s publicity and broadcast strategy is a free-market solution to a public health problem, but it’s got its issues. As compared with, say, Katie Couric’s on-air colonoscopy in 2002, which also drew big audiences, the station’s self-interest shines through a little too brightly. What’s worse, by playing off the ’salaciousness’ of their subject matter, they inflame the social taboos that made it possible for a local TV network to get national attention for airing an uncensored breast exam.

Here’s a clip from the WJLA series in question (NSFW?):

And here’s the Dr. Nancy segment (via TownHall)

(h/t Doug Ross via Technorati)

Can Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity Get Doug Hoffman Elected?

hoffman_11-3Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity really want Doug Hoffman to win that special congressional election in Upstate New York’s 23rd district. It’s not just because he’s a 3rd party “Conservative” candidate in a race that saw the shunned, moderate Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava drop out and endorse the Democrat, Bill Owens.

It’s because this race is a referendum on town halls, on tea partying, on the 9/12 Project.

Last night Hannity had on Hoffman to attempt to seal the victory, with a lengthy interview at the top of his show. But it wasn’t just Hoffman – the candidate (who has never run for political office and has said he never planned to) sat quietly while he was flanked by Fred Thompson and Jeri Thompson, who sounded quite politically polished herself. In fact, for the majority of the interview, Hoffman sat quietly, hands folded in his lap, periodically saying things like, “We’ve got to fight!” while Hannity and the Thompson’s took the lead.

“I wasn’t paying attention to it as closely as you were,” said Hannity to Jeri. “Then I started reading your emails and I started wrapping my arms around it, and it wasn’t just me by the way there were other conservatives Mark Levin is another one, and we spoke at length about it.”

Earlier in the evening, Hannity’s lead partner in the election of Hoffman, Glenn Beck, spent nearly 10 minutes hammering home just how very important this run-off race was. “I really don’t care about local politics all that much,” he said, which is pretty much what the Watertown Daily Times found out about Hoffman himself, who doesn’t even live in the district. “I really don’t follow this, I mean I do a national show, but I am watching this one, but not because Doug Hoffman is all that electric…” (and Glenn Beck knows electric) “…I don’t know much about him but from what I do know I seem to like, but who knows.”

Then he played a clip of his interview with Hoffman on his radio show earlier that day. But he didn’t play the part that’s getting all that attention.

>>> NEXT PAGE: Take a guess who Hoffman calls a “mentor”…and why it’s not just Beck/Hannity (and video/audio)

Viacom’s Profits Up As Recovery Sets In

Viacom (NYSE: VIA) reported its Q309 earnings this morning, and its profits rose to $463 million from $401 million a year earlier, beating analysts expectations, while revenues declined to $3.32 billion from $3.41 billion. It rev decrease primarily reflects lower home entertainment and ad sales, which more than offset increases in affiliate sales and theatrical revenues, it said. ITher data points:
—Media Networks revenues were essentially flat at $2.12 billion, with solid growth in affiliate sales offset by lower advertising and ancillary revenues.
—Domestic ad revenues were down 4 percent, which is a 2-percentage point sequential improvement over Q209 results. Worldwide advertising revenues declined 5 percent.
—Strong sales of The Beatles: Rock Band video game were offset by lower home entertainment and consumer products revenues, resulting in a 3 percent decrease in worldwide ancillary revenues.
—Filmed Entertainment revenues were down 6 percent year-over-year to $1.22 billion as weakness in home entertainment sales more than offset growth in theatrical revenues. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra fueled a 16% increase in worldwide theatrical revenues. More from the conference call as warranted.

From the call: Even as the execs are touting “emerging recovery”, it is all about costs, costs, and costs.

Phrases like “savings”, “low budget”, “taking costs out of the system”, are peppered throughout. On the launch of premium movie JV service Epix: it is close to additional distribution deals, and should be announced very soon, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said. He was very specific on licensing fee it gets from its networks from affiliates: “Our networks are clearly undervalued: we have 20 percent viewership, while we get 8 percent of the revenues. We remain very focused on closing this gap.” Meanwhile, he is very bullish on the newly acquired Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise for about $60 million. He described it as a “great investment for future at a relatively low cost. We have marketing ad creative assets to revitalize this franchise.”