NEWS BRIEFING FOR THURSDAY, MARCH 6

Research finds evidence that dark chocolate can promote healthier hearts, reduce the risk of some cancers, improve insulin sensitivity and control blood pressure—what a pleasant thought. Good morning.

One thing’s for sure, the digital transition will be a noisy one, particularly if more journalists write pieces similar to Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Himowitz, who contends “the cabal” of the FCC, wireless carriers, TV makers, politicians and bureaucrats “who hatched this scheme…is seriously worried about the fallout.”  Himowitz urges readers with analog sets to buy converters immediately to avoid the rush and so they can see if the equipment works. And he joins FCC commissioner Michael Copps in calling for testing before the big day. On Monday Copps suggested a test run in smaller markets before Feb 17 ’09. "Broadway shows open on the road to work out the kinks before opening night. The DTV transition deserves no less," Copps wrote to FCC chairman Kevin Martin. “Given the partisan politics of this FCC, the fact that Martin didn’t reject the proposal outright shows how scary this issue is for everyone involved,” Himowitz notes. “And he should be scared. Never before has the government, by fiat, declared obsolete a perfectly good, working technology that’s almost universally available and so critical to public safety. And with so little real-world testing of its replacement.”  [BS

As of last night there was still no breakthrough in the WIBW-Cox Communications negotiations over payment for the Topeka CBS affiliate, although the deadline is tomorrow at midnight. In the interim the Topeka Capital-Journal online carries an amusing story about Lee Dorman, the owner of Country Cable, a 700-sub system in PA. Dorman, who spends his days out of the office, making service calls at customers’ homes, stood up to a big corporate broadcaster 5 years ago. He refused to pay NBC affiliate WJAC to carry its signals. The irony? That broadcast affiliate was owned by Cox Television, a sibling of Cox Enterprises, which also owns Cox Communications. [TCJ

Walt Disney Company and Liberty Media join the list of those interested in acquiring The Weather Channel from Landmark Communications, The NY Times reports, quoting unnamed sources. Yesterday’s buzz listed Comcast, NBC-U, CBS and Time Warner as interested. Some equity firms also want to bid, sources said, but they aren’t expected to be serious rainmakers (sorry). Preliminary bids are due tomorrow, sources said. [NYT]

Briefly Noted
A&E confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that its Beast series starring Patrick Swayze is still under consideration for pickup despite Swayze’s battle with pancreatic cancer. [HR

Consumers who buy HD sets feel gypped by the lack of HD programming, but TV execs say the paucity of shows is perfectly reasonable, The Dallas Morning News reports. [DMN]

Yahoo changed its bylaws to give shareholders more time to nominate board members as it buys time in the Microsoft takeover battle, Dow Jones says, noting that some of its shareholders have sued Yahoo for rejecting Microsoft’s offer. [DJ]

The NY Times’ tech writer/blogger David Pogue has the same amount of pity for people who bought HD-DVD players and movies as he does for those who are mad at Microsoft because their computers crashed just before they hit the “save” button on the 800-page novel they were writing. [NYT

Today in CableFAX Daily: NFL hits hard on the Hill and why Comcast missed cable’s Spring Week in NY.

Got a tip? Contact sarenstein@accessintel.com and sgoldstein@accessintel.com

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Singer-songwriters Willa Amai and Katie Pruitt will perform at MFM ’s Media Finance Focus 2021. BMI is sponsoring the up-and-coming singer-songwriters’ performances

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