Fox Business wants you on TV on Saturday

What are you doing Saturday? Nothing? Wrong! You’re going on the Fox Business Network and you’re going to ask them questions about your finances. Here are the relevant details from the press release:

FOX Business Network (FBN) will debut “Your Questions, Your Money Live,” a new weekly series presented every Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM (ET) starting January 24, announced Kevin Magee, Executive Vice President, FOX News.

Hosted by FBN’s Dagen McDowell, “Your Questions, Your Money Live,” is a weekly four-hour live call-in show where viewers can talk to experts about the ongoing economic crisis and raise questions about personal finance issues.

This week’s edition will feature business leaders Larry Winget, bestselling author of “You’re Broke Because You Want To Be”; Pat Powell, Powell Financial Group President; Barry Habib, CEO of the Mortgage Market Guide; Dani Babb, author of “The Accidental Landlord,” John Rutledge, Chairman of the Rutledge Capital, Liz Pulliam Weston, author of “Easy Money” and Bill Isaac, former FDIC Chairman as part of the program’s panel of experts.

Yes, there are plenty of programs on TV and the radio that truck in the “You and Your Money” business. But if you are a Fox Business Network follower or care about any part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire, it’s worth watching it experiment. Case in point: 10am-2pm was not a period when FBN was broadcasting live before, a spokeswoman said. Expansion time!

Allan Sloan spots New York Times tax genius

The New York Times might not have figured out its long-term strategy to survive just yet, but Fortune columnist Allan Sloan discovered that someone working for the company is a genius when it comes to taxes.

The Times this week said it will borrow $250 million from companies controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, also the world’s second-richest man. Slim also is getting warrants that he can convert into stock, something that will make him one of the company’s largest shareholders. Aside from questions about whether he will take over the TImes, the aspect of the Slim deal that turned business reporters’ heads was the crazy interest that the Times will pay — 14 percent.

Sloan has a way of explaining how there is a way around this. Here are some excerpts, but for the full effect, go read his column. While Sloan is a master of converting complicated financial practice into plain English, this one is pretty tough for the layman.

Well-paid reporters, and other fantasies

Mitch Ratcliffe over at ZDNet’s Rational Rants blog is my new best friend because of a post he wrote the other day. At a time when the business of journalism is getting harder than ever to sustain, he articulates a full-blown reporting fantasy: The best kind of reporter needs the best kind of pay to do the best kind of journalism.

Here’s his breakdown:

    $130,000 salary and benefits $4,800 a year in subscriptions and other information sources $2,500 a month in travel $1,250 a month in legal and insurance coverage $179,800 total, and that’s before the cost of IT, telecom and office space

I say fantasy because, unless you’re in the major leagues of journalism, this isn’t the kind of pay that most of the press corps made even when their bosses’ coffers were overflowing with money.

(Personal note: My first reporting job was at The Alexandria Gazette-Packet in 1995. I was, either at once or at different times, city reporter, politics reporter and arts and entertainment editor and writer. I resized my photos with a pica pole and a wheel. I laid out my own pages, and I frequently took the paper to a building miles away where it was pasted up and printed. That got me $18,000 a year before taxes. Our paper was in receivership, and we had no guarantees that there would be money in the banks to cover our pay checks. Often, there wasn’t. So I like this $180,000 idea of Mr. Ratcliffe’s.)

Could Slim be a bad harbinger for New York Times dissidents?

Mexican billionaire and telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim is poised to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at The New York Times Co so the newspaper publisher can buy some more time to get its act together as advertising revenue falls and debt looms. If he is truly an ally of the Times, as our sources say, it could prove bad news for dissident investors like Harbinger Capital Partners who are pressing for drastic changes at the Times.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story on Saturday night, closely followed by Reuters. It was The New York Times itself (surprise!) that reported the specifics of Slim’s “bailout package” for the Times:

    A $250 million investment in exchange for 10-year notes with warrants that are convertible into common shares. A special annual dividend would go to Slim — maybe 10 percent or more of his investment. No voting rights, no board seat. With his 6.4 percent stake in the Times’s common shares, this could make him the largest Times shareholder, bigger even than the Ochs-Sulzberger family that has controlled the times since 1896.

The value of Slim’s previous investment already has fallen, but if he is treating the Times more as a philanthropic exercise than a business decision, this could work out well for both parties.

Madoff pays dividends in book deals

Not everyone in the orbit of accused mega-thief Bernard Madoff wants to give him the old pitchfork-and-torches treatment. In the past 24 hours, I received two press releases touting book deals for reporters who are going to write about the man who purportedly stole $50 billion from a variety of rich people, hedge funds, charities and universities.

Here is an excerpt from the first one:

The Portfolio imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. has acquired DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL by Erin Arvedlund, a journalist who in 2001 wrote one of the first critical articles about Bernard Madoff, the recently indicted financier. World rights were bought by Adrian Zackheim, President and Publisher of Portfolio, from Esmond Harmsworth of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. Publication is planned for the spring of 2010.

Arvedlund’s book, combining narrative and analysis, will share the same title as her May 2001 article in Barron’s — one of the first to ask tough questions about Madoff’s surprising results and unusual practices. That article, based on a four-month investigation and hundreds of interviews, was recently cited in an SEC complaint.

Apple, Jobs and health: A Reuters roundup

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs told the world Wednesday that he discovered that his health issues are more complex than he had previously thought, so he’s taking a medical leave of absence. Jobs, who earlier this month said his recent weight loss was caused by a hormonal imbalance that was relatively easy to treat, plans to be off until the end of June. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will mind the shop in the interim. Once Apple shares resumed trading after-hours, investors knocked off about 10 percent of their value.

Here’s a quick roundup of what we found online about these latest developments (And of course, here’s the Reuters story before we get to the other ones):

Silicon Alley Insider:

Tim Cook should do fine as Apple’s interim day-to-day leader. He took control of the company last time Steve went on a leave of absence to treat his pancreatic cancer. Steve says he plans to “remain involved in major strategic decisions” while he is out.

Microsoft, Yahoo, restless pigeons and balloons

Have you ever watched pigeons almost take flight as someone approaches, but after a brief flapping of wings decide to sit tight? That was the sense we got from reading the stories that knocked down the latest rumor about who will buy Internet search company Yahoo.

Here’s the story, posted by Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch blog:

Interest in troubled Internet giant Yahoo has not waned, it just took a break for the holidays.

A group of well known Silicon Valley executives and top investment bankers are putting together a Yahoo takeover deal that would be financed largely from debt supplied by Microsoft, we’ve learned from sources with knowledge of the proposed transaction.

Fox chief: American Idol results shows were boring

Update: I made some changes here. The folks at Fox say that Tony Vinciquerra said he found the results shows in season seven boring — not the finale. They were right and I was wrong. Here is the entry, with my corrections (I rewrote the headline too.

You can’t say that Fox Chief Executive Tony Vinciquerra isn’t clear about what he wants from the American Idol staff. In short: he wants a less boring season finale with more interesting coaches for the contestants… and while we’re at it, more interesting contestants.

Talk about tough love from the big boss!

Here is what Vinciquerra said at a conference earlier on Wednesday when asked about News Corp’s Fox Network and the popular show that turns ordinary people into super-celebrities: The season seven finale (no — the result shows) were boring.

Even Apple music wants to be free, sort of

The New York Times headline on Apple’s Macworld convention is so snappy that it almost frees me of the obligation to write this blog entry today:

Want to copy iTunes Music? Go Ahead, Apple says.

Fortunately, the Times couldn’t fit this other part into the headline, giving us something to quote:

Beginning this week, three of the four major music labels – Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group – will begin selling music through iTunes without digital rights management software, or D.R.M., which controls the copying and use of digital files. The fourth, EMI, was already doing so.

Sanjay Gupta: He is a doctor AND he plays one on TV!

The Obama administration looks like it’s getting a 3-for-1 deal in CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta if it really turns out to be true that he will be tapped for the new U.S. surgeon general: He’s a celebrity, a journalist AND a doctor!

Here’s Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post with the scoop:

President-elect Barack Obama has offered the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and correspondent for CNN and CBS, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

Gupta has told administration officials that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected to accept the offer.