DELAYED CBS REPORT REMAINS SHELVED

Despite its original assurance that it planned to revive a feature about how the administration was conned into believing that the Saddam regime in Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger, CBS said Wednesday that no date for airing the feature had yet been set. The feature was originally replaced on the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes on Sept. 8 by Dan Rather's later discredited report about George W. Bush's National Guard service. Replying to an inquiry from the Kansas City Star about the feature, a CBS spokesperson said, "Sorry, there is no broadcast date at this time." Initially, CBS had announced that "it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," a statement that was widely criticized by other members of the news media at the time. Newsweek pointed out that a team of 60 Minutes correspondents and consulting reporters spent more than six months working on the story.

LOST REPEAT FINDS AN AUDIENCE

A repeat of a two-hour episode of ABC's Lost performed well in the 8:00 p.m. hour Wednesday, scoring an 8.7 rating and a 13 share opposite CBS's 60 Minutes Wednesday and NBC's The Seinfeld Story, which scored an identical 6.3/10. At 9:00 p.m., however, Lost ...er ... lost to NBC's rebounding The West Wing, which recorded a 10.0/15. Lost settled for a second-place 7.8/11. In the crime-drama wars at 10:00, CBS's CSI: NY, scored the highest ratings of the night, an 11.4/18, versus NBC's Law & Order, which pulled a 9.3/14. ABC's Wife Swap drew decent numbers in the hour as well, registering a 7.4/12.

GOLD MEDAL WINNER SUES OVER 20/20 REPORT

Olympic track star Marion Jones has filed a $25-million lawsuit against Victor Conte, head of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), who claimed on ABC's 20/20 on Dec. 3 that Jones had used steroids in his presence. ABC was not named in the lawsuit. In an email message to the Associated Press, Conte called the lawsuit "nothing more than a PR stunt by a desperate woman, who has regularly used drugs throughout her career. I look forward with all confidence to the court proceedings as I stand by everything I said on the 20/20 special."

SINCLAIR COMMENTATOR IS "AMUSED" BY OPPOSITION

Mark Hyman, who voices Sinclair Broadcasting's editorials on its 62 stations, has told the Baltimore Sun that he is "amused" by the campaign mounted by a number of liberal groups to force the company to provide equal time for opposing opinions. Noting that in a 160-hour programming week, his comments occupy 10 or 15 minutes, Hyman, who is a vice president of the company, told the Sun: "I think the word 'commentary' must flash across the screen ... about 58 times, and the word is on the screen the entire time that I appear -- we go out of our way to make sure people know it's purely opinion." Observing that his detractors have not attacked the general news programming of the Sinclair stations, Hyman said that it "suggests that they're satisfied that the newscasts are honest, balanced and impartial. I certainly think they are."

EBERSOL'S INJURIES GREATER THAN FIRST REPORTED

NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol suffered injuries that were more serious than originally reported following a plane crash on Nov. 28, the company said Wednesday. Among the injuries are a fractured pelvis, coccyx and six broken vertebrae which have left him unable to stand. NBC did not disclose a medical prognosis and said that it had not been determined when Ebersol would be able to return to work. His duties, a spokesperson said, are currently being handled by NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer and Gary Zenkel, executive vice president of NBC Olympics.

U.K. PRODUCER CHARGES FOX COPIED ITS WIFE SWAP

RDF Media, the British TV production company that created, Wife Swap (the U.S. version airs on ABC-TV), has sued Fox Broadcasting and producers Rocket Science Laboratories, claiming that their Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy is virtually an identical copy of their show. The lawsuit claims that Fox President and COO Peter Chernin told Fox execs in 2003 that he had seen the show in London and that "it was the show everyone was talking about." Stephen Lambert, the creator and exec producer of Wife Swap, told the London Independent: "In our view, this is the most clear-cut case of copyright theft in the history of the reality genre. ... It has been widely reported that Fox has long pursued a strategy of ripping off other people's intellectual property. RDF intends to take full advantage of the law to put a stop to it.

TIME WARNER SETTLES FOR $500 MILLION

Time Warner has agreed to pay the SEC and the Justice Department $510 million to settle charges that its AOL unit cooked the books to make it appear that the Internet firm was earning more in ad revenue than it actually was. Some analysts had expected the company would wind up paying $4 billion or more in fines and legal costs. "This gets the monkey off Time Warner's back," Richard Greenfield, an analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners, told today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times. "It proves that taking a strong arm with regulators paid off. The settlement was far better than many of us feared." Matthew Harrigan of investment firm Janco Partners told the Washington Post that the settlement "removes a big cloud from the company and provides a return to normalcy." At a news conference, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Comey indicated that none of Time Warner's current top officials were involved in the original wrongdoing and that in reaching its decision to settle the case the government took into consideration the level of cooperation it had received from the company. "We are convinced that the top management of Time Warner ... are committed to making this right."

ENTERTAINMENT EMPLOYMENT IN CALIFORNIA GREATER THAN EXPECTED

In its first comprehensive report on entertainment employment in California, the state-funded Entertainment Economy Institute said Wednesday that the number of jobs reached 294,183 in 2002. Reporting on the EEI study, today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times observed that the figure is about twice the total estimated by state employment officials. Pay averaged $56,253 annually versus $40,769 for private companies overall in the state. The report observed that the number wasn't skewed by highly paid personalities because they were typically compensated through corporations formed for tax purposes.

TEN FILMS NOMINATED FOR CRITICS CHOICE TOP AWARDS

The Broadcast Film Critics Assn., which is making a strong reputation for itself with its annual Critics Choice Awards ceremonies -- to be televised this year on Jan 10 on The WB -- announced its nominees Wednesday, with Fox Searchlight's Sideways getting a nod in both the best film and best actor (Paul Giamatti) categories. The film has been receiving awards and nominations from virtually every major film group since the awards season began last month. Also nominated in the best picture category are: The Aviator, Collateral, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland, Hotel Rwanda, Kinsey, Million Dollar Baby, The Phantom of the Opera and Ray.

SUCCESS IS BOURNE AGAIN AT VIDEO STORE

Although kids' movies are typically the biggest sellers at the video counters during the holiday season, the thriller The Bourne Supremacy galloped out of the gate with sales of five million copies in its first seven days in release in the U.S. and Canada, Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced Wednesday. The original Bourne Identity was the most rented movie on DVD and VHS last year.

CHINA TO BEGIN RATING MOVIES

China indicated Wednesday that it will soften its insistence that all movies must be "suitable for all" and introduce a new rating system "so as to create a friendly environment for children moviegoers." Although maintaining that the system "will not be a copycat of foreign countries' rating system," the government newspaper China Daily said that it will be based "on Chinese adolescents' physiological age" and will take into account such content as murder, violence, terror and sex.

CRITICS SAY STAGE VERSION OF MARY POPPINS BETTER THAN MOVIE

Reviews of the stage version of Mary Poppins, which opened in London's West End tonight (Thursday), have turned out to be supercalifragalisticexpialidocious. Laura Michelle Kelly, who plays the title role, received special plaudits, with the London Evening Standard proclaiming "A star is born." Commented The Daily Mail: "She is an entire category better than the great Julie Andrews." (Kelly recently was acclaimed for her performance in another role made famous by Andrews (on the stage) -- Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.) Theater critic Benedict Nightingale wrote in the London Times: "I don't think it was just theater chauvinism that left me thinking the show better in every way than the Disney film, delightful though that seemed 40 years ago." Likewise, the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer wrote: "Let's not mince words: The stage version of Mary Poppins is heaps better than the movie -- funnier, sharper, more inventive and with a far greater variety of mood." The London Independent concluded in an unsigned review: "It simply blows away the opposition from rival West End musicals, emerging as the year's most joyous, spectacular and heart-tugging show in that genre."