Summer is icumen in, and it is bringing new-contract time closer for many of TV's top newspeople. Barbara Walter's five-year (yes, it has been that long) contract with ABC is coming to an end soon, and there is talk that Tom Brokaw of the "Today" show is champing at the bit as his contract expires. Of course, there is Bill Moyers over at PBS, still fretting over whether or not to accept offers from both ABC and CBS.
Miss Walters is very specific about her objections to the way she has been utilized at ABC. "I would like to have one place in which I do most of my things," she told me. "The way it has been, you never know if I'll be on 'Issues and Answers, '20/20,' 'World News Tonight' or 'Nightline.'
Miss Walters points out that her celebrity talks on "The Barbara Walters Interviews" show have turned out to be the tail that wagged the dog. ABC is ecstatic about their high ratings. "after five years, maybe people finally understand what all that [$5 million] contract talk was all about."
Her next special, probably to be aired in early June, will feature interviewers with Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Nancy Reagan.
There has been talk that other networks have shown interest. True?
"I have been scrupulous about not talking to other networks [there is an agreement among the networks that they will not woo newspeople while they are still under contract]. But soon I will be free to listen to what other networks have to offer. But I am happy at ABC and have no desire to leave.,,
Over at PBS, I chatted with WNET/NY president Jay Iselin, who informed me that the station and the network have definitely not given up on retaining Bill Moyers. "We want him to stay here, and now it is just a question of whether or not we can raise enough money to allow him to do the kind of job he wants to do. Actually, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is the key -- they could come up with a good part of the money needed."
In the meantime, according to Mr. Iselin, Moyers is working on a series on creativity, and a Mortimer Adler series. "PBS needs Bill Moyers. After all," he said, "how often do you get a newsman who wins an Emmy, a Peabody, a Polk, and so many other awards. . . ."