COURT NEWS (Click on More to view all articles): Judge Refuses Dismissal Of Suit Accusing Clear Channel of Illegal Acts

Clear Channel Communications was denied by a federal district court judge in Colorado, a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses the media giant of "monopolistic and predatory practices," reports the Wall Street Journal. This includes the illegal use of radio air time to enhance its position as the world's biggest concert promoter.

According to the 32-page lawsuit that Denver-based indie promoter Nobody In Particular Presents filed against Clear Channel last year on August 6, 2001, Clear Channel muscled artists into turning over promotion of their concerts rather than risk losing airplay and promotional support. This included artists who already had business relationships with NIPP (CelebrityAccess, August 8, 2001). Compensation for air time without on-air disclosure of the arrangement is prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission.

"We are comfortable that everything we do will be proven correct," said Lee Larsen, regional vice president of the Rocky Mountain region of Clear Channel Radio.

Disney Loses 'Home Improvement' Case

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Superior Court jury awarded $14.9 million to a talent agency that claimed The Walt Disney Co. underpaid commissions to the creator of the ABC Television sitcom "Home Improvement."

After a two-week trial, the jury found by a vote of 11-1 last week that Disney failed to pay agreed-upon commissions after the series, which starred Tim Allen, became a hit.

The Agency for the Performing Arts represented the show's creator, Matt Williams. "Home Improvement" aired on ABC from 1991-99.

Disney said it is considering an appeal.

"We are disappointed by the verdict, particularly since we had prevailed on the vast majority of the claims in this case," Disney said in a statement. "We believe we had satisfied our obligation to APA. However, the jury disagreed with our interpretation of the definition of base license fee. There are solid grounds for appeal."

If the verdict stands, Disney would share liability with several profit participants and the company itself would be liable for only 22 percent of the award, according to Disney sources familiar with the matter.

Plaintiff attorney Larry Feldman said how Disney shares the financial load is its business.

Feldman had argued that Disney agreed to pay a commission on the "base license fee" that it received from ABC for each episode. In 1991, that fee was $410,000.

Feldman said the deal with Disney called for the commission to rise, assuming that the base license fee would rise at a rate of 4 percent per year.

By the end of the series, ABC was paying Disney $3 million per episode, but Disney was paying APA a commission only on the original fee, plus the 4 percent growth rate.

Disney did not own ABC in 1991 when the deal was struck. It later acquired the network when it bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1996.

Producer Sues Over 'Osbournes' Idea

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A producer has sued Ozzy Osbourne and the rock musician's wife, claiming the couple stole the idea for their hit MTV reality series "The Osbournes" from him.

Plaintiff Gary Binkow said he met on several occasions with the couple and executives from Miramax TV between 1999 and 2000 to discuss "a real-life docu-sitcom" about their family, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The court papers include what Binkow said was a copy of his original treatment of the proposed series from January 2000, registered with the Writers Guild of America, The Hollywood Reporter reported Friday.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for breach of contract and fraud.

Lisa Vega, a spokeswoman for the family, said previously published reports have made it clear that Binkow was not the show's creator. MTV was not named in the lawsuit.

Binkow is executive producer of "Neverland," a movie starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet that's being shot in London.

A second season of the popular show is set to begin shooting in a few weeks, with Sharon Osbourne beginning chemotherapy for cancer that she recently learned had spread beyond her colon.

The show also stars two of their three children — 17-year-old daughter Kelly and 16-year-old son Jack.

Arrest Made in '89 Music Row Murder

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kevin Hughes' job was compiling a country music magazine's record charts and deciding which albums got a "bullet." One night in 1989, as he left a recording studio along Nashville's storied Music Row, he was gunned down.

This week, 13 years later, a former Nashville record promoter was charged with the slaying in an arrest some industry insiders say casts a spotlight on crooked practices in the country music business back then.

Richard F. D'Antonio, 56, was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas and charged in the slaying of Hughes, a 23-year-old researcher for now-defunct Cash Box magazine who was shot by a gunman in a ski mask.

Police said the shooting was related to the two men's work in the music industry. They would not elaborate.

But Jim Sharp, editor at Cash Box until 1986 and a longtime fixture in the city's music industry, said he and many others who worked on Music Row were interviewed by police over years. And he said police examined several leads, including the possibility that Hughes was killed because he refused to manipulate the record charts.

Sharp and others said the practice was once widespread in Nashville. Record promoters working mostly for small, independent labels would give gifts to radio programmers in exchange for airplay and to chart researchers for a "bullet" signifying the record is climbing the charts.

"The radio stations looked at the charts," said Sharp, now publisher of American Songwriter Magazine. "If the record was still going up and bulleting, they would keep playing it."

At the time, the upper half of Cash Box's list of the top 100 country records was dominated by major-label artists and the bottom half by independent-label artists.

"It sounds incredible that somebody would kill someone over chart position," said Robert Oermann, who writes about the industry. "But there was an underbelly of the music business." He said airplay is monitored electronically now, making it much harder to tamper with the charts.

Hughes' job involved calling radio stations around the country to track airplay. D'Antonio had worked with Hughes at the magazine before leaving to become a promoter.

Investigators would not say what led to the arrest.

"We always hoped that something like this would come about," Hughes' 31-year-old brother, Kyle, said from his parents' home in Carmi, Ill. "We prayed about it."

Kyle Hughes described his brother as a "very honest person" who loved songs and wrote poetry. Kevin Hughes moved to Nashville in 1984 to attend Belmont University and started at Cash Box as an intern. He quit school to work there full time and was at the magazine about 18 months before he was killed.

"He would spend a lot of hours at Cash Box not even getting paid for it because he wanted to get the job done right," Kyle Hughes said.

D'Antonio, now a casino pit boss, was charged with first-degree murder. He was also charged with attempted murder in the wounding of country singer Sammy Sadler during the attack.

Hughes and Sadler were leaving Evergreen Records when they were confronted by a gunman. Sadler was hit in the shoulder and ran to a building. Hughes was shot as he fled. The gunman then stood over Hughes and shot him again. He was hit three times and died of a head wound.

Police believe Hughes was the target.

Sadler did not immediately return calls Thursday. Ron Cotton of C&M Productions, Sadler's agent, said Sadler is "scared to death" and hiding out in Texas because police say others may have been involved and more arrests are possible.

D'Antonio had been interviewed in connection with the case in the past. D'Antonio has a criminal record in Alabama and Georgia that includes drug charges, aggravated assault and aggravated burglary, police said.

D'Antonio's lawyer's name was not immediately available.

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