A group of about 150 Hollywood professionals has written a strongly worded letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell, expressing concern about the impact of media consolidation on programming quality and diversity -- and asking for a federal study of the issue.
The letter, written by the Caucus for Television Producers, Writers & Directors, asserts that popular culture is one of "our great national treasures" -- and is under assault.
"The harm comes about as a direct result of the growing concentration of ownership," said the signers. "The consequences of this new factor in our industry are -- and this is no exaggeration -- potentially catastrophic."
The group -- which was established in the 1970's -- said there has been "an alarming increase" in the number of corporate owners of radio and TV signals.
"Without specific federal constraints," said the letter to Powell, "these 400-pound gorillas will stifle creative innovation, infect the pool creatively and financially with the bottom-line fungus of the myopic."
Founded more than a quarter of a century ago, the group's membership includes such entertainment industry figures as Marcy Carsey, Lionel Chetwynd, Tom Fontana, Garry Marshall, Aaron Spelling and Dick Wolf.
YANCY'S BACK -- ROLL 'EM
Yancy Butler back is back on the set following a hitch in rehab for treatment of alcoholism, and production has resumed on the second season of TNT's supernatural cop drama series "Witchblade."
Production had already been completed of six of the 13 planned episodes when Butler had to take a time out.
The second season premiere is scheduled for this Sunday, with two new episodes running back-to-back on TNT.
TNT has signed Marv Albert to a six-year deal to work as lead announcer on its NBA telecasts beginning with the 2002-03 season.
The cable network will televise 52 regular season games and at least 50 playoff games each season under terms of its contract with the league. ESPN and ABC -- which have NBA broadcast rights next season following the league's long run with NBC -- have not announced their broadcast team.
Albert said he talked with ESPN and ABC, but he liked the Turner deal better.
The 32-year sportscasting veteran has been working games on TNT since the network hired him in 1999 -- his first national network gig following his firing at NBC in 1997. The network let Albert go after he pleaded guilty in an assault and battery case involving his girlfriend.
Albert will still work New York Knicks games for the MSG regional sports channel while he handles his TNT schedule.
IMAGEN AWARD WINNERS
Esai Morales ("NYPD Blue," "American Family," "Resurrection Blvd.") was named male entertainer of the year and Penélope Cruz ("Vanilla Sky," "Blow") was named female entertainer of the year at last week's 17th annual Imagen Awards, presented each year by the Imagen Foundation, to promote Hispanic representation by the entertainment industry.
Andy Garcia ("Ocean's 11," "The Untouchables") received a lifetime award for creative achievement, and Cristina Saralegui received a lifetime achievement award for her work as a talk show host- journalist.
The Imagen Foundation also honored Herb Scannell -- president of Nickelodeon, TV Land and TNN -- with its Vision Awards.
The Norman Lear Writer's Award was presented to Dennis Leoni, executive producer of "Resurrection Blvd." on Showtime, which shared an award with "NYPD Blue" for best primetime TV drama series. NBC's "Scrubs" was named best primetime comedy series.
"Bread and Roses" and "Tortilla Soup" shared the prize for best feature film.
STUDENTS SNAG ACADEMY AWARDS
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored 11 film students from eight U.S. universities Sunday with top honors at the 29th Annual Student Academy Awards.
New York University had the most winners -- four, including a gold medal in the narrative category for Jessica Sharzer's "The Wormhole." The only Southern California film school represented on the list of winners was UCLA, with a silver medal in the narrative competition for Grace Lee's "Barrier Device."
Martin Strange-Hansen of the National Film School of Denmark in Copenhagen received this year's Honorary Foreign Film Award for his film, "Feeding Desire."
In addition to trophies, gold medal winners each get $5,000. The Honorary Foreign Film winner received $1,000.