March 21, 2023

Barbara Walters to Announce 2014 Retirement on ‘The View’

“It’s time,” Ms. Walters said, previewing the announcement she will make to the national television audience watching her daily program, “The View.”

“I keep thinking of the line from ‘Cabaret,’ ” Ms. Walters said. “ ‘When I go, I’m going like Chelsea.’ When I go there is not going to be any, ‘Please can I have another appearance?’ I don’t want to do any more interviews. I don’t want to do any other programs. I’m not joining CNN. This is it.”

Like Johnny Carson, another television standout who took charge of his exit from the national stage, Ms. Walters is picking her television end date exactly one year in advance: over the next year she will participate in a series of retrospectives on ABC prime-time news programs and her home on “The View,” seeking, she said, “to say goodbye in the best way.”

Expectations that Ms. Walters, the nation’s first female anchorwoman, would make a formal retirement announcement surfaced in March. She returned from a vacation at that time to say on the air that she had no announcements to make.

But in an interview last week in her apartment overlooking Central Park, decorated with mementos and photographs of her interactions with boldfaced names of the past half-century, Ms. Walters, 83, confirmed that she had been pondering this decision for several years.

“It’s not something that just happened,” she said. “I’ve been thinking, When is the time? When I was turning 70 it was pretty old for television — to me now that’s a kid! But I remember thinking then, Is this the time to go?”

That was still in the previous century, well before the surgery to replace a heart valve in 2011. More recently her health again became news when she suffered a concussion in January after fainting at a pre-Inauguration party at the British Embassy in Washington. After several days it was announced that Ms. Walters had contracted chickenpox, which gave her an infection that led to the fainting spell.

“I am not leaving because I am in ill health,” Ms. Walters said. “I’m now fine. I had the chickenpox, which is ridiculous. I had never had it when I was a child, but I hugged someone who had shingles. I fell and got bloodied. It was not the chickenpox that was scary, it was the concussion. It was the same thing as Hillary Clinton fainting and falling. Chelsea said she needs to get her mother and me helmets.”

The inspiration for stepping aside next year is to take advantage of that continuing good health, Ms. Walters said. “I want to leave when I’m still very active and very viable.” She mentioned several times that she would like an opportunity to smell a few roses.

“I want to go someplace and actually see it,” she said. “I’ve been to China three times. I hope the Great Wall is still there. I went when Nixon went, but wound up running after him with a tape recorder.”

Last month, she said, she went to London on assignment (she has a special airing on May 24 on the next generation of the British royal family) and stayed for only a day and a half. “I’d like to stay maybe three days sometime,” Ms. Walters said.

Of course, the reason she left so quickly is symptomatic of why she has continued to work so long and why the decision to take a final bow is still surprising. “I came back that Monday because on ‘The View’ we had Sonia Sotomayor,” Ms. Walters said. “And I loved her book and I thought, I want to introduce her and I want to be on the show.”

How difficult will it be to turn all that off? “I won’t miss chasing the big interview get,” she said. “I will miss being on the air. I will miss writing. I will miss editing, which is what I think I do best.” She added, “There will be days when I want to weigh in on something and I will have no place to do it except to call a girlfriend. But on the other hand, the rewards are: I can have some fun.”

After another year, that is. The farewell tour (a term Ms. Walters rejected) will include appearing on one last edition of the 10 most fascinating people (they will not pick an all-time Top 10, but Ms. Walters will select a No. 1 overall); a last interview with President and Mrs. Obama; a series of retrospective clips from “The View”; possibly a last Academy Awards special (which Ms. Walters stopped doing three years ago); and a prime-time special next May that will attempt to sum up her career.

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Bits Blog: Estonia Gets Highest Marks for Internet Freedom

What’s up with Estonia? The tiny Baltic nation affords its citizens the greatest measure of digital freedom as measured by Freedom House, a Washington  advocacy group.

Freedom House’s rankings are based on things like access to the Internet and online free expression laws. Estonia has a national digital identification system, allows its citizens to vote online and has announced plans to teach computer coding to public school students as early as first grade, according to the technology blog UbuntuLife.

Estonia is a standout at a time when, according to Freedom House, online censorship has grown, from widespread blocking and filtering in some countries to laws that regulate what can be said online to physical attacks on bloggers and other online critics.

The group’s report, which measured the restrictions in 47 countries from January 2011 to May 2012, found that “restrictions on Internet freedom in many countries have continued to grow, though the methods of control are slowly evolving and becoming less visible.”

The report comes on the heels of a global debate about free expression after a crude video that ridicules Islam was posted on YouTube. It was blamed for setting off violence in several countries worldwide. It led a handful of countries to block YouTube altogether.

In 19 of the 47 countries mentioned in the report, Freedom House said, citizens who posted content online, whether in a blog or on social media, were “tortured, disappeared, beaten or brutally assaulted.” The report was packed with examples. In Bahrain, for instance, the moderator of an online forum died in police custody in April 2011; in Jordan, a blogger was stabbed in the stomach; and in Sri Lanka and Uzbeskistan, those who criticized the government online have “disappeared under mysterious circumstances.”

Physical attacks were not limited to critics of the government. Freedom House cited the example of Mexico, where bloggers who had written about organized crime were murdered, with notes that referred explicitly to the victims’ postings online.

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Networks Embrace Cable’s Way of Introducing New Shows

That applies not only to the newest roster of network programs, which are increasingly being influenced by standout cable series like “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad” and “Justified,” but also to how forthcoming network entries like “Smash” on NBC, “The River” on ABC, and “Touch” on Fox are going to be marketed and scheduled.

The networks have embraced the idea — originally hatched by cable networks — of introducing initial episodes of their shows through other distribution outlets like YouTube before they have their premiere on their own schedules. And executives also suggested that a growing number of series might shift to the cable model of 10 to 13 episodes a season — to be run consecutively with no pre-emptions or repeats — rather than 22 to 24 episodes spread out over nine months.

That the strategies found on cable are infiltrating the broadcast networks comes as little surprise, since three of the four network programming chiefs built their reputations at cable networks: NBC’s Bob Greenblatt at Showtime; Fox’s Kevin Reilly at FX; and ABC’s Paul Lee at the Disney Family Channel.

“The beauty of cable is you make three pilots, you pick up three pilots, and you declare them hits, and they run for five years,” Mr. Greenblatt said during the press tour here.

He pointed to the drama “Prime Suspect,” a conspicuous flop for NBC last fall. “At Showtime, ‘Prime Suspect’ would have been picked up in the third episode and declared a hit,” Mr. Greenblatt said.

Mr. Reilly said much the same thing about the disastrous debut of the Fox drama “Lone Star” last year. “If I was still at cable, I would have gotten genius points” for that show, he said.

Both “Prime Suspect” and “Lone Star” drew audiences of about three million, tiny by network standards, but substantial for cable, making it possible to declare a network failure a hit for cable.

The programmers’ commitment to reshaping network strategy is most apparent in their move toward introducing series in more aggressive ways. For example, ABC’s plan for its new horror drama, “The River,” calls for its pilot episode to be shown on numerous Internet outlets, including YouTube and Hulu, as well as in movie theaters in several cities and on college campuses.

“We feel strongly that presampling is a great thing to do,” Mr. Lee said. He and other network executives cited the example this season of the Fox comedy “New Girl.” That show was aggressively sampled on Web sites and proved to be such a success on iTunes — where it totaled about two million downloads — that some Fox marketing executives feared those might have undercut the ratings for its premiere on the network.

Instead, the show was a breakout ratings hit.

“What we have found again and again,” Mr. Lee said of ABC’s experiments in sampling, “was that the amount of buzz you create from somebody who loves the show and will talk about it on Facebook is going to give you far more audience than it takes away.”

That is certainly what NBC is hoping for with its most promoted show of the year, the musical drama, “Smash.” Mr. Greenblatt tried to ease some of the pressure on “Smash” by saying, “You need four or five shows to start to turn things around. ‘Smash’ could be one of those. I hope it is one of those. If it isn’t, you know, it’s not like we’re going to go into receivership.”

But he conceded that NBC, in clear need of a game-changing show, plans a “full court press” of promotion, including a heavy presence during the network’s coverage of the Super Bowl — one day before the “Smash” premiere on Feb 6.

The all-out effort began with screenings of the pilot episode in 10 cities on Jan. 9. NBC also will make the pilot available on other downloading and streaming platforms starting Monday, including XFinity, iTunes, Amazon, Xbox, PlayStation, Voodoo and Samsung Media Hub. Then, a week before the premiere, NBC will start making it available for streaming on and Hulu.

“We’re doing everything we can think of to generate buzz for this show,” Mr. Greenblatt said.

“Smash” also will benefit from being able to run straight through on Monday nights for 15 episodes — with no disruptive breaks filled with repeats. Several other midseason shows will do the same thing, like the sci-fi family drama “Touch” on Fox, with 13 episodes. “The River” will try to grab viewers with an eight-episode miniseason.

Mr. Reilly said this scheduling — which is essentially how cable networks schedule their programs — had a chance to gain traction at the networks.

“I’d like to try it,” Mr. Reilly said. “I do think we’re at a place where the 13-episode pattern is appealing. There are a lot of shows that would be better off creatively doing fewer than 22 episodes and the viewers would probably enjoy them more. When you sit down to 13 from the get-go, the end is in sight, so it feels doable.”

One network, CBS, does not have a program chief who graduated from cable and has no plans for short-run, cable-style series or free giveaways of pilots. Why? CBS is sailing along, knee-deep in hits, holding to the same network course it has always followed.

“The philosophy we live by is: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” said Nina Tassler, the president for entertainment at CBS. “We’re doing something right, and not just good enough to get by. We’re doing really well.”

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