The Week

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The Securities and Exchange Commission is taking on the controversy over inflated newspaper-circulation figures. The SEC has reportedly asked for information on circulation practices from publishers including Tribune Co., McClatchy Co., Washington Post Co., Knight Ridder, New York Times Co., Gannett Co. and Dow Jones & Co. In an SEC filing, Tribune Co. confirmed it has received a notice from the SEC and spokespeople for Washington Post Co., Gannett, Knight Ridder and Dow Jones confirmed the SEC notice. A spokeswoman for McClatchy would not comment. Both the Newspaper Association of America and the SEC declined to comment on the inquiry.

An SEC spokesman said it is the commission's job to survey an industry about practices in instances when one or more industry members disclose problems. "The goal to prevent problems before they cause widespread investor harm or to affirm that investors are not at risk," said the spokesman.

Fox gets hit with $1.2 million fine

The Federal Communications Commission continued to step up enforcement of indecency regulations by levying its highest fine yet for a single incident against the Fox Broadcasting Co. The FCC levied the $7,000 fines-totaling $1,183,000- against 169 Fox stations that aired an episode of the reality series "Married By America" that featured topless dancers. Fox disputed the FCC's characterization, but made no immediate indication of whether the fine would be appealed. "We disagree with the FCC's decision and believe the content was not indecent," the company said in a statement. The FCC has been under pressure after singer Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl halftime show in January. QwikFIND aaq04s

Ad review looms as Hartford seeks ideas

In what could be a prelude to a review, financial company the Hartford has been soliciting ideas from outside agencies, according to executives at two shops contacted. One executive familiar with the situation said five agencies are involved in a review and that no consultant is involved. The company's longtime agency is Havas' Arnold Worldwide. A Hartford spokesman declined to comment on the review.

Hartford spent more than $15 million in measured media in 2003, down by more than half from the year before, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Its recent advertising has focused heavily on mutual funds. An Arnold representative did not immediately return calls. QwikFIND aaq04x.

Black Rocket exec talking buyout deal

A departing partner at Black Rocket is trying to negotiate a buyout of the faltering San Francisco shop. Its president, John Yost, has just resigned and partner Steve Stone's contract has run out. Mr. Stone now wants to buy back the remains of Black Rocket, but its parent company, Havas' Euro RSCG has balked at selling him the name. A spokesman for Euro said a buyout decision will come soon, but Mr. Stone won't get to use the Black Rocket name.

Founded in 1996, Black Rocket-the ad agency that developed the Yahoo! yodel and otherwise enjoyed high-profile celebrity during the dot-com era-sold an 80% stake to Euro four years ago, when annual billings were about $100 million. But the agency began to falter after it lost Yahoo! in November 2003. QwikFIND aaq04o

FYI . . .

Grey Global Group Vice Chairman-General Manager Robert Berenson will retire in early 2005, a spokeswoman for Grey Global Group confirmed. ... David Suissa has left his position as vice chairman of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif., an agency executive said. Mr. Suissa did not return calls seeking comment. His partner, Bruce Miller, remains as Dailey's co-chairman. Brian Morris continues as CEO.

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