ANOTHER MUCH-WORSHIPPED IDOL FALLS

In yet another upset, Constantine Maroulis was eliminated from American Idol during Wednesday's results show. The announcement by host Ryan Seacrest was greeted with a chorus of boos and appeared to bring judge Paula Abdul to tears. Abdul, who on an earlier show had called Maroulis "the one to beat," denounced Maroulis's elimination. "This seems to happen every single season," Abdul said. "I can't even speak, I'm so shocked." Meanwhile, Abdul responded Wednesday to published reports that a planned ABC Primetime Live special due to air next week will focus on claims by former contestant Corey Clark that he had an affair with her. In a statement issued by her publicist, Abdul called Clark "an admitted liar and opportunist who engages in unlawful activities." The controversy appeared to have little effect on the show's ratings. Wednesday's half-hour edition registered a 14.2 rating and a 22 share, up slightly from a 13.4/21 last week and down slightly from a 14.5/22 two weeks ago.

WILL NETWORKS AIR BUSH'S PRIMETIME NEWS CONFERENCE?

President Bush's decision to hold a news conference at 8:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) throws a monkey wrench into the networks' machinery as they gear up for the first night of the May sweeps. The news conference would come: halfway through the scheduled one-hour edition of CBS's Survivor: Palau and would likely run into CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; during NBC's Will & Grace, which was to have featured guest appearances by Alan Arkin, Debbie Reynolds and Lee Majors -- and probably into The Apprentice at 9:00 p.m.; after the first half hour of ABC's movie, Sweet Home Alabama; and halfway through Fox's The O.C. By midmorning today, only Fox had committed to airing the news conference live.

OVERSEAS PRESS CLUB MAKES KOPPEL MOST-HONORED NEWSMAN

Ted Koppel is due to receive his 10th award from the Overseas Press Club tonight (Thursday) for best TV spot news reporting from abroad, making the Nightline anchor the most-honored journalist in OPC history, ABC News said in a news release today. Edward R. Murrow is next on the organization's list with nine awards. "Ted Koppel has set the standard for superb television journalism, a broadcast genius at tough but respectful interviewing, wry insightful commentary and putting words and pictures together for extraordinary impact," said Richard B. Stolley, president of the Overseas Press Club. "It is these editorial virtues that have brought him an unprecedented 10 Overseas Press Club Awards." Koppel is due to leave Nightline in December.

NAB BATTLES ANALOG TV TURN-OFF

The National Association of Broadcasters has denounced efforts by some of the country's largest technology groups to persuade Congress to set Dec. 2006 as the unequivocal cut-off date for TV stations to turn off their analog signals and transmit all of their programming digitally. Under the current law, the date could be pushed back if more than 15 percent of homes in any market are unable to receive digital broadcasts. However, in a letter to Congressional leaders on Wednesday, outgoing NAB chief Eddie Fritts commented, "As a matter of public policy, the corporate financial interests of a handful of technology companies should not trump the needs of American television viewers. ... Make no mistake: A premature end to analog television could leave millions of Americans without access to free local TV station signals. The harm to these consumers -- a disproportionate number of whom come from poor and minority households -- must be considered against the purely parochial interests of high-tech companies hoping to profit from new uses of this spectrum." The NAB claims that 73 million viewers depend on free analog broadcasts. The Government Accountability Office has concluded that the number is more like 21 million, representing 19 percent of all homes. Several Congressional leaders have proposed providing lower-income households with a $100 converter that would allow them to receive digital signals.

PTC LEADER CALLS CABLE CAMPAIGN "$250-MILLION SHAM"

A campaign by the country's leading cable operators to educate viewers on how they can protect children from inappropriate programming was denounced Wednesday as a "250-million sham" by Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council and head of the conservative Media Research Center. In a statement, Bozell called the campaign, called "Take Control. It's Easy," an effort "to promote channel blocking and V-chip technologies as an adequate remedy for families concerned about their children being exposed to violent, profane and sexually explicit programming." He said its purpose was to allow the industry to shirk responsibility for its product. Bozell's comments came after the cable industry said it would air $250 million worth of public service announcements describing how parents could use controls already available to them on cable systems as well as the V-chips built into newer sets. For viewers with older sets, the cable companies would provide channel-blocking devices for free.

AUSTRALIAN NETWORK YANKS FILM ABOUT CHILD KILLER

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has yanked a controversial documentary about a child killer after a judge in the state of Tasmania ruled that parts of the documentary were defamatory and barred it from being broadcast in the state. Initially, the ABC had indicated that it would air the film, The Fisherman, about killer James O'Neill, in other Australian states tonight (Thursday) but later reversed its decision when it became apparent that broadcast signals from other states could be received in Tasmania as well. O'Neill has served 30 years for the murder of nine-year-old Ricky John Smith, longer than any other prisoner in the state. The ABC has filed an appeal against the injunction.

SECOND HORSE DEATH IN FLICKA FILMING

The American Humane Association disclosed Wednesday that a second horse was killed on April 11 during filming of the My Friend Flicka remake. The announcement was made just two days after another horse was killed during production of the movie. Although an earlier report said that the incident on Monday involved the filming of wild horses, later reports indicated that the horses were trained. Nevertheless, reports differed on what actually occurred. The Associated Press reported that the horse broke away from handlers and tripped on its rope. The Los Angeles Daily News quoted onlookers as saying that the horse was one of four that were galloping around an arena trailing 30-foot ropes and fell when its back legs became entangled in the ropes. Meanwhile, an uproar over the two deaths has arisen. Kathy Riordan, a member of the Los Angeles Animal Services Commission, accused the American Humane Association of failing to monitor the scene closely. The group, she said, gets paid by Hollywood, and there's something wrong with that." The animal rights group PETA demanded that the AHA place the rating "Monitored Unacceptable" on the film's credit scroll. Sara Spaulding, spokeswoman for the Humane Association, told the Associated Press that an investigation was being conducted to determine whether guidelines were followed during filming. But Fox 2000 President Elizabeth Gabler, in an interview with Daily Variety, noted that four AA observers were on the set and had approved the scene. "This whole situation is being treated with inaccuracy and hysteria," she said. "I am a horse owner. I have six of them, and they are like my children. Every precaution was taken to ensure the safety of these animals. There is nobody more devastated than I am, and [PETA is] doing this only to supplement their position."

MARVEL SUPERHEROES LAND AT PARAMOUNT

Marking Brad Grey's first major deal since becoming chairman and CEO of Paramount, the studio said Wednesday that it had signed an agreement with Marvel Enterprises to distribute a slate of films that would be produced by Marvel and feature its roster of superheroes. At the same time Marvel announced that it had obtained $525 million in non-recourse financing from Merrill Lynch Commercial Finance Corp., in which the theatrical and motion picture production and distribution rights for ten Marvel characters would serve as the sole collateral. Paramount will receive an undisclosed fee to distribute the films, but Marvel will retain all revenue from merchandising. It will not contribute to production costs but will providing promotion and advertising for the films. In a statement, Avi Arad, chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, said, "Paramount Pictures has the most collaborative and creative team in the business to help us market our films. Under its new leadership, we've found Paramount to be exceptional in every way and look forward to working together for a long, long time."

GYLLENHAAL WEBSITE SHUT DOWN BY PROTESTERS

The fan website maggie-gyllenhaal.net was inundated with angry messages and had to be shut down Wednesday following Gyllenhaal's remarks during an interview promoting her new film, which concerns people living in New York in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. Appearing on the all-news channel NY1 on Friday following a screening of The Great New Wonderful at the Tribeca Film Festival, Gyllenhaal commented enigmatically: "I think America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way and so I think the delicacy with which it's dealt allows that to sort of creep in." News reports quoted her as saying that she believed America was "responsible in some way" for the attacks. The webmaster on the fan site said that it became overloaded with hate messages and crashed. Gyllenhaal issued a statement saying she grieved with every other American for those who died in the attacks, "but for those of us who were spared, it was also an occasion to be brave enough to ask some serious questions about America's role in the world."

CANADA BACKS PERMANENT HOME FOR TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL

The Canadian government announced Wednesday that it will contribute $20 million to Festival Centre, a $98-million permanent home of the Toronto International Film Festival. The festival will occupy the first five floors of a 41-story condominium project called Festival Tower being built by developers The Daniels Corporation and producer Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Twins, Road Trip) on a parking lot owned by Reitman's family.

BOLLYWOOD INVESTORS PULLING OUT FOLLOWING SERIES OF FLOPS

Legitimate investors in Bollywood films who replaced many of the gangsters who appeared to take control of the Indian movie industry in the '90s are shunning the industry after backing a long succession of flops, the French wire service Agence France Press reported today (Thursday). The wire service said that many investors were drawn by the glamour of the business and poured money into films with big stars. It quoted Indian film analyst Indu Mirani as saying, "It appears that even these sophisticated businessmen got enamored by the glamour and forgot that finally it is the script that has to be good and not just the stars for a film to be a hit."

ACTRESS MARIA SCHELL DEAD AT 79

Maria Schell, best known in America for her performance as Grushenka in the 1958 film The Brothers Karamazov, died Tuesday in her sleep in Preitenegg, Austria at age 79. Schell appeared in numerous starring and supporting roles in U.S. films and in dozens of German films. She was the sister of actor Maximilian Schell but appeared with him in only one film, 1974's The Odessa File. In her later years, her mental health deteriorated along with her finances, and her final travails were documented in the film Meine Schwester Maria (My Sister, Maria) by Maximilian in 2002.