MediaWatch: December 1996

Vol. Ten No. 12

Revolving Door: Battling for Boy George

ABC, CBS and CNN fought to land top Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, but ABC News won the battle. The just-departed Senior Adviser to the President will have a far greater role at ABC than Bill Kristol, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle.

While the Clintonite will spar with conservative Kristol in discussions on This Week and Good Morning America, The New York Times noted he also "is expected to do some reporting as a correspondent." He'll work with This Week Executive Producer Dorrance Smith to produce longer pieces for GMA. Smith has also been through the revolving door, having put in a White House stint advising President Bush on media matters.

How far were the other networks willing to go? As with ABC, well beyond any position offered to former Reagan or Bush administration political operatives. "A CNN source said yesterday," The Washington Post's John Carmody reported December 12, "the cable network had been prepared to offer Stephanopoulos his own weekend half-hour program and some other `innovative programming ideas.'" CBS News proposed a slot on Face the Nation and a role in its upcoming Eye on People cable channel.

Carmody noted that ABC hopes "that if things go well, Stephanopoulos's role can be expanded to include doing some full-length programming for ABC-owned cable channels like Arts & Entertainment and, particularly, the History Channel, where, said Senior News Vice President Joanna Bistany yesterday, `he can explore the issues.'" If that's not enough, he'll "be available in 1998 for political coverage."

This isn't the first time Stephanopoulos, who served as floor assistant to then-House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt before joining Clinton campaign, has worked for a network. Back in 1985 he was behind the camera as an Associate Producer for two CBS News specials on the famine in Sudan.

Over for Ovitz

Just as George Stephanopoulos comes aboard ABC, the network has lost the executive who helped raise the money that enabled Stephanopoulos to push liberal policies. Michael Ovitz stepped down in December as President of the Walt Disney Company, ABC's owner. He held the slot for 16 months. In the 1993-94 election cycle the Hollywood agent donated to just one Republican, but gave at least $36,000 to Democrats. In 1993, the Los Angeles Times reported, Ovitz "hosted and organized" a fundraiser for Clinton and the Democratic National Committee which raised $450,000. BPI Entertainment Wire relayed that he urged the celebrity crowd to give Clinton "the time he needs to build a consensus and to enact change."

Moving On

Colette Rhoney, Producer of NBC's Meet the Press and CNBC's Tim Russert, has quit so she can do some traveling. She "had a key role in the network's coverage of the last three election cycles," The Washington Post reported November 25. In 1984 she worked for the unsuccessful Texas Senate campaign of Lloyd Doggett, a liberal Democrat.....

Marla Romash, a Good Morning America Associate Producer in the mid-1980s and Communications Director for Vice President Al Gore in 1993, served as an adviser this fall to Jeanne Shaheen, the successful Democratic candidate for Governor of New Hampshire.