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MSNBC online gets a new CEO

Jim Kinsella, former editor of Time Warner's Pathfinder and cofounder of the Internet Content Coalition, will head up the new media arm of the Microsoft-NBC joint venture.

Jim Kinsella has been promoted to CEO of MSNBC on the Net, the company will announce later today along with other organizational changes.

Kinsella previously was vice president and general manager of MSNBC's online division, a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC. The CEO and president positions were newly created for Kinsella. Prior to joining MSNBC, Kinsella was the editor of Time Warner's Pathfinder.

MSNBC's director of technology, John Nicol, will replace Kinsella as general manager.

His promotion comes in the wake of a management shake-up at Microsoft that also affected MSNBC. As previously reported, Pete Higgins, vice president of Microsoft's Interactive Media Group, which includes MSNBC, is taking an "extended leave of absence."

Peter Neupert, who was instrumental in founding MSNBC online, also left Microsoft Interactive Media last summer.

The changes announced today come as the software and broadcasting giants strive to broaden the MSNBC site amid increasing competition in the online news space.

One of the most prominent editorial leaders on the Net, Kinsella has been active on a wide range of Net issues. He is the cofounder of the Internet Content Coalition (ICC), whose members include Netscape Communications, the New York Times, ZDNN, Playboy Enterprises, and, published by CNET: The Computer Network.

The ICC held a forum yesterday to discuss regulatory issues facing online publishers. Under the leadership of Kinsella and Maria Wilhelm, formerly president of The Well and now the senior vice president of programming for Netscape's Netcenter, the ICC frequently has weighed in on pressing free speech debates.

The ICC now is a plaintiff in federal case to overturn the Child Online Protection Act, which makes it a crime for commercial Web sites to give minors access to "harmful material." A trial is set to begin next week.

Early on, the ICC also got tangled in another controversy: Net ratings.

The coalition had grappled with the issue of whether news companies should apply a "news" label to their Web content in order to bypass software that censors Web sites containing violent or sexual material. Some worried that, in an effort to make the label more meaningful, the ICC would draft standards to define "news" on the Net and challenge those who "misused" the label. Ultimately, the ICC members voted not to rate their sites at all.