Doctors, lawyers and a variety of businesses say they were pitched by Boca Raton video companies to pay thousands of dollars to have their businesses included in videos featuring Michael Douglas.
Several say they thought the videos would be on PBS stations, but public television ultimately rejected the programs as not meeting its standards. The companies named as defendants in a suit are all in the same building at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd.
He was given a script and told he would get a 20 percent commission on $23,100 underwriting fees.
"Certain portions of the script were altered in the version I received. For example, the contact information for 'Family Television Studios' was replaced with the contact information for Paradigm Media Group," he said.
A copy of the script was given to the court as an exhibit.
The script said underwriters would get a "high-end custom 6-8 minute demo tape (with Michael Douglas on it)..."
The underwriting companies were told it would be distributed to all 349 PBS affiliates.
PMG's goal was to close 50 transactions a month, Ritter said Bill Klump, who hired him, told him. Doing the math indicates that would generate $1.15 million in revenue.
Thousands for a sponsorship
Robert Ryniak, a software developer for Ingenuware Ltd., said another PMG employee called him in August to have his company included in "Learning About ..." if he paid thousands of dollars for a sponsorship.
Ryniak said he was told the program was for public television, which he assumed to be PBS. He checked the PBS Web site and found a disclaimer that it had no affiliation with the show or any of the Boca Raton companies.
Ryniak said he called PMG and questioned its solicitation practices. A PMG representative said its failure to clarify that there was no affiliation was not misleading.
Sharon Gardner, an attorney at the law firm Crain, Caton & James in Houston, said she was called by Infinity Media Group and solicited to sponsor a segment on end-of-life decisions and living wills, featuring Douglas.
Gardner also said she thought the series was for PBS.
She received a May 4, 2005, letter, describing the series and a $22,900 underwriter's fee.
Gardner's firm paid more than $15,000 to Infinity, but never received a copy of the segment, filmed Jan. 10, she said.
Douglas' attorneys also drove home the point about PBS. One filing said that Family Television issued a March 16, 2005, press release about Bio Tech Medics signing a contract.
"The 'Learning About ...' educational series is distributed to all 349 PBS stations in all 50 states," the press release stated. "The series has an expected reach of 30 plus million households."
In a May 13, 2004, letter, Family Television said the series was "scheduled for satellite uplink to all 349 public television stations beginning in November [2004.]"
However, there wasn't a distribution agreement until the following September, when WXEL in Boynton Beach signed on as the host station. But that agreement was short-lived.
Jerry Carr, president and CEO of WXEL Public Television and Radio, said both the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) and American Public Television rejected the show as not complying with public television standards and practices.
In November, Carr wrote a letter to Bill Hough, the CEO and executive producer of PMG, to say the agreement was void because the series did not meet public television standards or FCC regulations. Terms in the contract allowed it to be canceled under those conditions.
Uplink doesn't guarantee broadcast
As for claims about where the show might air if it was uplinked, Gayle Loeber, head of programming for NETA, addressed that in a statement.
"There is no guarantee that a program, which is scheduled for satellite uplink or which is actually uplinked, will ever be broadcast," she said.
There is also no service to track when and where the short educational programs air, Loeber said. They are not listed in schedules and aren't tracked like ads on commercial television.
Loeber said she was contacted about "Learning About ..." by Scott Nurik, who said his New World Television was affiliated with a number of similar past and present companies engaging in the same business, including WJMK and Paradigm Media Group.
In December, The Business Journal reported that WJMK is a video production company owned and operated by Mark Kielar, who was embroiled a couple of years ago in a controversy involving Walter Cronkite that was written about in The New York Times and Time magazine.
Cronkite and WJMK exchanged lawsuits over a breach of contract issue that was settled.
Kielar was then listed on a state Web site as registered agent of 370 West Camino LLC, which owns the building. State Division of Corporation records show the property now has a new registered agent, James H. Batmasian, a Boca Raton property owner.
A look at the cast of companies, officers, registered agents
Attorneys for Michael Douglas used state records and witness statements to argue that "defendants are merely some of the related companies operating from the same building," 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd., in Boca Raton. The companies are:
• Defendant: Family Television Studios
• Defendant: Paradigm Media Group LLC (doing business as PMGTV or PMG Television)
• Defendant: Infinity Media Group
• Not listed as defendants: United Media Communications Group, Global Television Studios and WJMK (which share a suite with Family Television), Profiles in Business and Mediaworks Television Studios
A Business Journal search of state and court records found the following officers or registered agents associated with video companies at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd.:• Tim Visser signed the settlement as president of Family Television and is also associated with Profiles in Business and Mediaworks Television Studios. He is also an officer for New World Television, at 2244 Glades Road, No. 342A, in Boca Raton.
• Mark Kielar is listed for United Media, WJMK, Acts Capital Investments LLC, Serenity Bay LLC, Black Mountain Ranch LLC and the nonprofit Cross TV, all at 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd; and the nonprofit Cross International Aid, at 600 S.W. Third St. in Pompano Beach.
• William Hough signed the settlement as an officer of Paradigm Media Group. (State records show the registered agent is Ambassador Management Group Trust, 2929 SW Third Ave., Suite 320, Miami 33129.)
• Wali Waiters signed the settlement as an officer of Infinity Media Group.
• John M. McGuire is listed as CEO of Global Television Studios and Patricia A. McGuire is listed as VP. Their mailing address in state records is 2150 N.W. 10th St., Delray Beach 33445
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