HOW DID NBC REPORTER LAND FIRST LADY SCOOP?
NBC News reporter Ann Curry, who is due to become co-host of NBC's Dateline on Friday, has already scored a huge "get" that has reportedly miffed the White House press corps, including its members among her own NBC colleagues. According to reports appearing on Internet blogs, the First Lady's press secretary, Susan Dryden Whitson, gave Curry and an NBC news crew exclusive access to First Lady Laura Bush during her forthcoming trip to Africa. They will reportedly be the only journalists allowed on the plane with Mrs. Bush, and they will not provide pool coverage for the other networks. Other TV correspondents said they could not recall a previous instance in which exclusive rights had been given to a single network for an official White House overseas trip. They also noted that the White House had passed over even NBC News' Chief White House correspondent David Gregory for Curry, who is also the Today show's news reader.

CNN FINDS BIG RATINGS WITH LOST BOY SCOUT; FNC'S ARE BIGGER

CNN saw its ratings surge Tuesday after it reported that 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins had been found in a Utah wilderness, but its audience never approached the size of the Fox News Channel's. Prior to the announcement, CNN had averaged 288,000 viewers for the 2:00 p.m. hour. Over the next two hours it averaged 709,000. By contrast, Fox News averaged 758,000 viewers in the 2:00 p.m. hour, rising to 1.4 million in the 3:00 hour and 1.5 million in the following hour.

CBS EXEC TO USE INTERNET TO MAKE CBS NEWS MORE "TRANSPARENT"

CBS Digital President Larry Kramer said Wednesday that he intends to use the Internet to make CBS News more transparent, putting meetings between producers and other staff online and making segments deleted from broadcast interviews available to the public. Speaking to the Media Center's Cross Media Teams conference in Reston, VA, Kramer also announced plans to launch an online edition of 60 Minutes that will incorporate the opinions of viewers. "We're doing what we call the cable bypass," Kramer said. "The web is going to be our cable news network." Kramer, the founder of the successful online business-news service, MarketWatch.com, predicted that "the vaunted CBS News operation is going to be substantially supported by Web revenues."

DANCING WITH THE STARS DANCES AWAY WITH ANOTHER WIN

There was no stopping those dancing feet Wednesday night as ABC's summer hit Dancing with the Stars overwhelmed the competition with a 10.2 rating and a 17 share, exceeding the ratings of its competition on CBS and NBC combined. It also gave ABC a win for the night with an average 6.4/11 versus a 5.5/10 for second-place NBC. CBS placed third with a 4.6/8, followed by Fox with a 2.4/4.

AD BUYERS STILL PAYING PREMIUM PRICES FOR NFL

Despite lackluster ratings last season, the NFL is drawing enthusiastic ad buyers for programming next year on the major broadcast networks and ESPN, MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews reported today (Thursday). The website, citing unnamed media buyers, reported that upfront sales of spots on next season's games are being priced 6-8 percent higher than they were a year ago, contrasting with the 4-5 percent increases the networks were able to command during upfront sales presentations last week.

PUBLIC BROADCASTING SUPPORTERS MOBILIZE TO OPPOSE CUTS

A bipartisan measure is expected to be introduced in the House today (Thursday) that would restore $100 million to the budget of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Meanwhile, PBS President Pat Mitchell has called for CPB Chairman Kenneth Thomlinson to oppose the proposed budget cuts. In a conference call with reporters, Mitchell said, "We're in the fight of our lives now, and if, in fact, his goal has been ... to broaden the base of our support, well, here's a chance to prove it and have a positive impact." In an Op Ed piece that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mitchell urged PBS viewers "to tell their representatives that public broadcasting isn't an expendable luxury but a vital national service." Meanwhile, officials of public broadcasting stations in several small cities and rural areas of the country said Wednesday that they might be forced to close down or significantly reduce their local programming if the cuts are approved.

STUNT PEOPLE TAKE A TUMBLE

Despite recent demonstrations by Hollywood's stunt people, the board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Wednesday turned aside a proposal for an Oscar award for stunt coordinator. "At a time when the Academy is trying to find ways to reduce the numbers of statuettes given out and looks at categories with an eye more focused on reduction than addition, the board is simply not prepared to institute any new annual awards categories," Academy President Frank Pierson said. Stunt coordinator Jack Gill, who has been leading the fight for a stunt category, expressed disappointment and said that he would attempt to appeal the academy board's decision.

ACADEMY FORCING PRODUCERS TO CUT THEIR CREDITS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday that it intends to limit the number of Oscars that will be presented to winners in the best picture category. After failing to persuade the studios to limit the number of nominated producers, the Academy board said that it will give the Producers Guild of America full power to decide who qualifies as a legitimate producer for Oscar recognition. ""The PGA has set up a very thorough and conscientious process of vetting producer credits," said Academy executive director Bruce Davis. "The Academy isn't an investigative body, and it seems silly for us to set up an elaborate mechanism to do something one of the guilds is already doing," AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis said.

FILM CRITICS BARRED FROM MARS

New York film critics have been barred from tonight's (Thursday) premiere of Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, leading New York Times columnist Campbell Robertson to wax poetic -- Yeatsian, really -- to speculate whether the snub might have something to do with star Tom Cruise's Scientology beliefs, or last weekend's incident in which a bogus reporter squirted him with a phony microphone, or his bizarre behavior on the Oprah Winfrey show. ("The press lacks all conviction, while TOM CRUISE/Is full of passionate intensity,/Really, really passionate intensity.") Meanwhile, film critics in Germany threatened Wednesday to boycott War of the Worlds if they are required to sign an agreement not to publish a review before its June 29 release date in that country. While an informal agreement exists between U.S. critics and studios to withhold publication of reviews of new movies until the day of their premieres, no such agreement exists in Germany. In a statement released Wednesday, the Association of German Film Critics said that the studio demand represents "scandalous P.R." and obstructs the press from its constitutionally guaranteed rights."

KODAK ALLIES ITSELF WITH BELGIAN PRODUCER OF DIGITAL PROJECTORS

Gearing up for the day when movie theaters begin making the transition to digital projection, the Eastman Kodak Co. and Brussels-based Barco have formed an alliance in which Barco would provide theater projectors and Kodak, the servers and software that would run on them. Stephan Paridaen, head of the Barco's media and entertainment division, told the French wire service Agence France Presse: "It is not a question of if, but when digital cinema is coming. The alliance is important in order to be a big player on the market." He forecast that the market for digital projectors "could be ready for take-off by 2007." Bill Doeren, general manager of Kodak Digital Cinema, said in a statement that Kodak was already working with Barco to install digital projectors in three U.S. multiplexes. "Audiences are thrilled with the system's performance," Doeren said. "By combining Kodak's capabilities with theirs, we can jointly provide a complete solution to the marketplace now and in the future."

TALKING ON CELL PHONES BIGGEST PEEVE OF MOVIEGOERS

A survey conducted for Cingular Wireless indicates that talking on a cell phone in movie theaters is the number-one peeve of moviegoers. An overwhelming 73 percent of those polled called the behavior the most annoying, with chatting with a seatmate and hearing a cell phone ring during a movie ranking well behind with 10 percent each. Nearly one third of the respondents admitted that they had been embarrassed when their own cell phones went off during a movie and 93 percent urged theater owners to post an on-screen message reminding people to turn off their cell phones off before the movie begins.

HOME VIDEO INDUSTRY EXPECTS SLUMP

Video retailers and renters indicated Wednesday that they were bracing for tough times ahead, even as the Will Smith comedy Hitch debuted with the best sales and rentals since last April. Movie Gallery, the company that recently acquired the Hollywood Video stores, said Wednesday that it expected that its sales for the year will be significantly lower than had been forecast. It noted that the current slump at the box office will no doubt be repeated with video -- on a delayed basis. Shares in the company dropped more than 10 percent.

SONY CHAIRMAN WANTS TO END "SILOS" BETWEEN DIVISIONS

Sony Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer vowed today (Thursday) to do away with the kind of "silos" within the company that prevented its electronics division from releasing an iPod-like digital recorder early on when its music and film divisions protested that it could be used to download pirated material. "It took some years for me to break down silos in the U.S., and I will do it again in Japan," he told a news conference, a day after he was confirmed as the company's new leader.

FOX-TV CLAIMS INDIAN TV PRODUCER COPIED 24

Twentieth Century Fox Television, charging that the Indian TV series Time Bomb is an almost episode-by-episode rip-off of its own series 24, asked a court in New Delhi Wednesday to compare videos from the two series. A lawyer for Zee Telefilms insisted, however, that Time Bomb was a continuation of a similar serial series that it produced in 2001 and that the new one featured the same actors and a similar plot about international terrorism. While granting that the Indian series used a similar plot device, the lawyer insisted that presentation techniques are not subject to copyright laws.