Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"48 Hours" Infringement

There's a new web-a-zine on the Internet called "48 HR Magazine". But CBS is already claiming title infringement because the creators of the new site have chosen the name of CBS News' long time Saturday night news magazine "48 Hours".

Amazingly, one of the web magazine's founders, Mathew Honan, said, "To be honest, none of us even knew that there was still a program called '48 Hours", so it never crossed our mind."

Ever heard of Google? Search "48 Hours" and most of the top results are the CBS News magazine "48 Hours". (By way of full disclosure, my wife, Susan Zirinsky, is the program's executive producer, and I used to oversee the program when I was an executive at CBS News in the early 90's.)

When launched in January 1988, "48 Hours" was the innovative idea of Sony's CEO Sir Howard Stringer, who was then President of CBS News. His concept was to assign reporters and cameramen to follow a subject for 48 hours and then produce a compelling and vividly real one-hour news program on a topic. These teams would capture all the energy, drama and tension while recording dynamic and powerful video from which to produce a riveting hour. Hence, "48 Hours on Crack Street" was the premier episode. Other subjects included life in a hospital emergency room or with the police out fighting crime.

Over time the producers found the program would be more complete if they did not have to limit themselves to a rigid 48 hour shooting schedule. That is because some aspects of a story, or crucial interviews, could not be acquired in that tight a window. Having more time to produce an hour meant producers could choose from a broader array of topics and could reduce costs by minimizing overtime.

The program was originally hosted by the CBS News anchorman Dan Rather and then "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl. An ensemble cast currently presents each hour. Now known as "48 Hours/Mystery", it is also frequently the most viewed television program on Saturday nights with about 6 million viewers.

The program has had an important influence on how video news magazines are shot and edited. "48 Hours" reruns have been appearing on cable for many years now, with a version currently on Discovery. And "48 Hours" spun off a website last year called "Crimesider". In fact, it is pretty hard to miss "48 Hours".

So San Francisco freelance writer Mathew Honan is either disingenuous, lazy or amazingly naive. However, here's a suggestion, how about calling the new site "2880 Minutes"?

By the way, CBS has just announced that "48 Hours/Mystery" will be on the schedule again next fall, for its twenty-third season, right there in its regular Saturday night time slot.

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