Times Are Tough

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Just because gas prices have dipped back down below four dollars a gallon in most parts of LA doesn't mean that you can call off the recession.

Four-dollar gas is coming back. And the signs are still out there, all over the place, that even in Tinseltown – whatever that means – times are getting tougher.

A new survey just found, for example, that the number of Los Angeles area households with net worth of more than a million dollars has...dropped.

Los Angeles still has the MOST millionaires of anywhere in the country. But even though the seven-figure niche is growing elsewhere, by that one gross measure, wealth is fading here.


There are several reasons for the turnaround, all of them able to be summed up very unscientifically under the label of...the economy kind of stinks right now.

By the way, the method they use to figure who is a millionaire in this case doesn't take into account the dropping value of homes.

So all the temporary millionaires on the Westside, along the beaches, up in the Hollywood Hills, and elsewhere...

That group whose bungalows, half acres and lemon trees have been inflated in value lately...

Well, they do still have to worry that the real estate recession will bite them on the back end. But their pain isn't counted in THIS survey.

The bad news is popping out all around the Hollywood part of the regional economic powerhouse that is Southern California.

Early in the week came the disclosure that production of the hit ABC comedy Ugly Betty is leaving L.A. for New York.

The producers say they were seduced by the recently enriched New York state tax credit offered to refugees from the SoCal dream factory

It looks like about a hundred crew members will be losing their jobs here. Now that's ugly.

Then yesterday, Time Warner added to the gloom by closing two of its units that specialize in releasing lower-budget indie-style features.

By getting rid of the Picturehouse and Warner Independent labels, Warners hopes to eliminate more than seventy unneeded positions.

The studio insists it will keep doing small movies. Art house movies now have easy access to multiplexes so the separate distribution arms are less necessary, the suits say.

But the trade paper Variety is skeptical, calling it a "dramatic exit from the specialty biz"...that reveals pressure on Warner Bros. to show more financial discipline.

Speaking of discipline...the annoying little cold war between SAG and AFTRA continues. They two guilds still haven't found a way to come together and unify their rival factions of...on-air talent.

So you might have to add a new Hollywood labor struggle to your list of things to worry about.

But there was a small and intriguing scrap of good news this week from the world of media.

NBC is launching an all-news digital cable channel in New York, similar to what Time Warner does with New York 1 – but different in a key way that could matter out here.

The New York Newschannel will deliver news from NBC's local station, repackaged and melded with other reports into a 24-hour news operation.

If the concept works, the network is looking at introducing it in Los Angeles as soon as next year. And LA could use another all-news outlet.

Channel 4 here already shovels onto cable a digital onslaught of news and inside glimpses of the station called News Raw.

But station exec Bob Long talks frankly about the need to invent the next format in TV news. Nightly news shows with their million-dollar and aging, anchors are dying, he says.

TV news needs a new killer app. If this idea shows any life at all, I'd expect to see it here sooner rather than later.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.