news digest


Disney board increases annual dividend

The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday that its board of directors raised its annual dividend by nearly 15% to 31 cents a share, payable on Jan. 12 to shareholders of record at the close of business Dec. 15. The latest payout marks the 51st consecutive year of dividend increases for Disney. The company last paid a dividend of 27 cents a share. Disney shares closed 1% higher Tuesday at $32.89.

ICG Publicists to fete Ganis

Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will receive a lifetime achievement award from the ICG Publicists. Ganis, who is co-head of the Out of the Blue production company, will be feted Feb. 7 at the publicists' 44th annual awards luncheon at the Beverly Hilton. He is in his 20th year as an Academy member, representing AMPAS' public relations branch. "Sid reflects the highest standards of the public relations professional," said Henri Bollinger, award committee chairman for the ICG Publicists.

Friedman upped to exec vp at mtvU

Stephen Friedman, general manager of mtvU, MTV's 24-hour college network, has been promoted to executive vp. In his new role, Friedman will continue to oversee all aspects of mtvU in addition to the recently acquired College Publisher network of more than 500 online college newspapers. He also will take on expanded responsibility for growing mtvU's overall presence and reach in the college market. Friedman launched mtvU in January 2004. He will continue to be based in New York and report to MTV president Christina Norman.

Rome tunes in TV-centric Fiction Fest

ROME — The inaugural Rome Fiction Fest for television programming will be held July 2-9, organizers said Tuesday, giving the Italian capital its second new festival in as many years. The festival arrives in the wake of the first RomaCinemaFest, which debuted in October. According to organizers, the new festival will feature about 70 competition titles divided into categories that include best telefilm, comedy program, miniseries and continuing series. Former Munich Film Festival head Marlene Strenbaum will be the fest's creative director.

Seacrest takes E! down to 'Paradise City'

E! Entertainment Television is going into production on a Las Vegas-set unscripted show from Ryan Seacrest Prods. and Go Go Luckey Prods., the company behind MTV's "Laguna Beach." This marks the first series to come out of the RSP development and production deal with the network. "Paradise City" is a weekly half-hour series that will offer an inside look at twentysomethings who live and work in Las Vegas. The eight-episode show, from Go Go Luckey in association with RSP, is set to debut on E! next year.

EU extends e-commerce tax rules

BRUSSELS — European Union finance ministers meeting here Tuesday extended through 2008 the EU's rules for charging value-added tax on broadcasting and digital downloads. The rules require sellers to collect the tax on broadcasts and goods delivered over the Internet to individual consumers. They are contained in the EU's 2002 e-commerce VAT directive, but this was designed with a limited shelf life and was set to expire at year's end. Plans to make the e-commerce tax permanent failed this year as finance ministers disagreed over a broader overhaul of VAT rules, which is still being debated.