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Louis Rukeyser planning competition for old show

| Wednesday, April 10, 2002

NEW YORK — Louis Rukeyser, ousted by PBS after 32 years, will return to the air on CNBC next week — and is trying to make things as difficult as possible for his old show.

The new program, "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street," debuts April 19 at 8:30 p.m. on the cable news financial network.

That's the same Friday time slot that the financial journalist occupied on PBS, and he will compete directly with the revamped "Wall $treet Week" that fired him last month. It will be shown again three hours later — 8:30 on the West Coast.

CNBC is also making Rukeyser's new show available to any PBS station that wants to rebroadcast it, although it won't be available on Friday nights. His CNBC show will run without advertising and with underwriter support — the same format used by PBS shows.

"I believe in an open, competitive system and I think people will decide which of these programs they want to watch," Rukeyser said Tuesday.

"Wall $treet Week" with Rukeyser as host was averaging 1.7 million viewers on Friday nights this year. For the same time slot, CNBC is averaging 172,000 people.

That made it an easy decision for CNBC executives to cut the business talk show, "America Now," from an hour to a half-hour on Friday nights to make room for Rukeyser.

The 69-year-old Rukeyser's ugly exit from PBS began when his producers, Maryland Public Television, and their new partners at Fortune magazine said they wanted to make a new version of "Wall $treet Week" and reduce Rukeyser's role.

Rukeyser objected, and Maryland Public Television fired him after he complained about his treatment and said on the March 22 edition of "Wall $treet Week" that he was developing a new show.

Maryland Public Television CEO Robert Schuman said yesterday: "We wish him well in his new commercial endeavor. While we are concerned about his continuing mischaracterizations of circumstances surrounding his departure from 'Wall $treet Week,' we prefer to move on."

The revamped "Wall $treet Week" starts in June. It's operating with substitute hosts until then.

A spokesman for Maryland Public Television questioned how many PBS stations will want to air Rukeyser's show after it has already been seen twice on cable.

"I don't know how attractive that will be to the stations," said Jeff Hankin.

WLIW-TV, a PBS station based on New York's Long Island, announced it would distribute Rukeyser's new show to PBS stations. It said an informal survey found about half of PBS stations expressed an interest in airing it.

WLIW will show "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" at 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Ironically, WLIW hasn't aired "Wall $treet Week" since 1993.

Rukeyser said everyone in his rotating panel of 22 contributors will join his new CNBC show.

"People wanted my program to continue," he said. "I'll tell you a little secret about why we've been so strong for 32 years: We connect with the audience and the audience kind of likes us."

Terms of the deal were not released. Rukeyser will be allowed to continue his side projects, including two newsletters, a Web site, conferences and investment cruises.

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