ABC'S LOST WON AGAIN

ABC's Lost remained the leader in the 8:00 p.m. hour Wednesday night for the third consecutive week, posting a strong 10.3 rating and a 17 share, but CBS took the next two primetime hours with back-to-back episodes of CSI (Miami at 9:00 p.m.; NY at 10:00 p.m.). CBS won the night with an average 8.8 rating and a 14 share, but ABC was close behind with an 8.0/13. NBC finished third with a 6.6/11, while Fox trailed with a 3.9/6.

FOX NEWS CHANNEL CLOBBERS CNN AGAIN DURING V.P. DEBATES

Despite CNN's reputation as the cable news channel people watch for breaking news coverage, cable viewers preferred Fox News Channel by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 during Tuesday's vice presidential debate. According to figures released by Nielsen Media Research, Fox News Channel drew 7.8 million viewers, while CNN could attract only 3.3 million. MSNBC pulled 1.5 million. All of those figures were eclipsed by the three major broadcast networks who together attracted 31 million viewers, with NBC leading the pack with 11.5 million.

NBC WILL CUT WILL AND GRACE EXTERIOR SHOT

NBC said that it plans to remove new exterior scenes of the Puck Building in New York City where the characters played by Debra Messing and Megan Mullally on Will and Grace work, after a Chicago Tribune reader wrote the newspaper saying that the sign on the building looked to her like it began with the letter F. NBC spokesman Jamie French told the newspaper. "I assure you it isn't really an F. But I talked to the editor, Bruce Adler, and, believe me, we won't be using that shot ever again." Earlier in the week, NBC received a barrage of complaints from viewers of NBC Nightly News who saw President Bush framed in a shot against a sign reading "TAX RELIEF for AMERICAN WORKING FAMILIES" so that only the letters "ILIE" could be seen behind him.

TOSHIBA LAUNCHING HANDHELD SATELLITE TV SET

Toshiba says that it plans to introduce the first handheld TV receiver that can receive programs from a satellite. The company said that the Toshiba MTV-S10, which sports a 3.5-inch TFT screen can receive images from Japan's Mobile Broadcast company and can record video and audio onto SD-Memory Cards. The device is due to go on sale in Japan on Nov. 1.

SONY INTRODUCING TV/PC WITH MASIVE STORAGE

Sony plans to introduce a TV-PC combo that can record an entire week of programming from six channels simultaneously on four 250 GB hard drives. The device includes seven analog TV tuners and a flat-panel monitor. The Vaio type X VGX-X90P will have a suggested retail price of $9,000, Sony said.

AL-JAZEERA REPORTERS ORDERED TO STOP USING TERM "U.S. OCCUPATION"

Reporters for the Arab all-news channel al-Jazeera have been put on notice by their editors to halt using the term "occupation" in referring to the American situation in Iraq and to refrain from referring to militant extremists as members of the "resistance." Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Thursday) that many al-Jazeera reporters believe the policy glosses over the reality of what is happening in Iraq. It quoted one source as saying, "Most of us here feel it's still an occupation but, at the same time, we work for al-Jazeera and have to follow a policy. ... For the majority of us, if we could still use the term [occupation], we would." A spokesman for the channel said that it had decided to observe the terminology used by the United Nations, which dropped the word "occupation" when the interim government took over.

STUDIO DENIES CUTTING GAY SEX SCENE IN ALEXANDER

Warner Bros. on Wednesday denied a raft of Internet reports that it had ordered that homosexual sex scenes be removed from its forthcoming Alexander. starring Colin Farrell in the title role. The scenes in question also feature Francisco Bosch, in the role of a Persian eunuch named Bagoas. Reports of the deletions first appear in a gossip column by MSNBC.com's Jeannette Walls. In a letter to Walls, quoted on the MSNBC website Wednesday, Warner Bros. production chief Jeff Robinov insisted that the original story was "completely untrue." He called the Oliver Stone-directed epic an "exceptional piece of filmmaking" and insisted: "Any speculation that the studio is trying to cut scenes from Alexander based on their depiction of the sexual relationships of the lead character is false and does not accurately represent the content of the film, which portrays Alexander the Great as heroic and a man of his time and culture."

ALEXANDER ORCHESTRA TOO BIG FOR STUDIO

Film composer Vangelis, famed for his evocative synthesizer soundtracks for such films as Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner, will be giving Alexander "a grand score," including an orchestral and choral accompaniment orchestrated and conducted by Nic Raine. "Vangelis decided that, although part of the score for Alexander would be electronic, he also wanted to have an orchestral element. We have wanted to work together for some time and this was our opportunity," Raine told the website musicfromthemovies.com. Although he indicated that some 100 minutes of orchestral music had been recorded for the movie, the fact that the film is still being recut may require that some of the orchestral cues be replaced with synthesizer ones, Raine said. He also indicated that the orchestra for the film was so large that all of the members could not fit into the Paris recording studio. "We recorded the 60 strings first and then added the brass and woodwind followed by percussion."

VIACOM-BLOCKBUSTER STOCK SWAP A SUCCESS

Although analysts had expressed concern that Viacom might not be able to induce its stockholders to exchange some of their stock for its struggling Blockbuster division -- even after offering them a 16-percent premium -- the stock swap has turned out to be far more smashing than anyone had suspected. Viacom said on Wednesday that its offer had been oversubscribed -- that its stockholders had tendered ten times the number of shares that Viacom could accept. Richard Greenfield, an analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners, told today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times: "For investors who've continually worried about Blockbuster's drag on Viacom's growth, that concern is eliminated."

PGA TO FIGHT PROLIFERATION OF "PRODUCER" CREDIT

The Producers Guild of America, which lacks the clout of a full-fledged labor union (it has no collective bargaining agreement with any studio) is launching an informational campaign to persuade the studios to halt handing out producer credits willy-nilly. On Wednesday, it noted, for example, that this summer's Laws of Attraction listed 16 producers, many of whom were merely persons who helped finance the movie but had nothing to do with the production. George Hedges, a lawyer for the guild, told today's (Thursday) Wall Street Journal. "Can you imagine saying you were the CEO of a company and never showed up for a day's work? That's effectively what this is." Kathleen Kennedy, the PGA's president, said that if the guild is unsuccessful persuading the studios to limit the credit to persons responsible for development and production, then it plans to file a false-advertising lawsuit.

UNIVERSAL PULLS PLUG ON AMERICAN GANGSTER

Despite its assertion as recently as Monday that it "remains committed" to the movie American Gangster following the departure of director Antoine Fuqua ("creative differences"), Universal has pulled the plug on the film, less than a month before it was to begin shooting in Harlem. The movie was to have starred Denzel Washington and Benicio Del Toro. Oscar-winning writer Steven Zaillian wrote the script and Brian Grazer was producing. The two actors had so-called pay-or-play deals, meaning that they will be paid regardless of the cancellation. The film had already generated considerable buzz and was featured in the latest issue of the British entertainment magazine Empire. On its website today (Thursday), the magazine reported on the film's cancellation, remarking, "Sometimes, the speed with which a project can fall apart is bewildering."

FAHRENHEIT 9/11 HOT ON DVD

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has set another record -- the biggest first-day sales of a documentary on home video in history. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment said that it sold about two million DVD and VHS copies of the Bush-bashing film on Tuesday and that it expects to sell an additional million by the end of the week.

MOORE DENIES HE'S BRIBING "SLACKER" VOTERS

Michael Moore has responded to demands by the GOP in Michigan that he be prosecuted for offering clean underwear and Ramen noodles to "our slacker youth" to encourage them to vote on Nov. 2. Earlier in the week, Republican officials wrote to the district attorneys of four counties noting that the state's election code bars a person from contracting with another for something of value in exchange for agreeing to vote."The Republicans seem more interested in locking me up for trying to encourage people to participate in our democracy than locking up Bin Laden for his attacks on our democracy," Moore said.

PARKER AND STONE FINALLY WIN R-RATING FOR TEAM AMERICA

Fans of South Park

creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone will have to wait until the DVD version of their latest film, Team America: World Police, is released before they find out how many splinters were removed from sex scenes featuring puppets in order to garner an R rating for the film. The two had said on Monday that they had reedited the film nine times in order to get the MPAA ratings board to back away from the NC-17 rating that it had initially imposed on the film. The tenth time, presumably, proved to be the charm. Robert Friedman, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group, told today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times that the two filmmakers had altered "the level of sex, how often and how many positions and which positions. It was really all about the level, the positions and the intensity of the sex." The MPAA notice now says that the film is rated R "for graphic, crude, sexual humor; violent images and strong language all involving puppets."

"INDUCE" LAW NEARS A VOTE

Representatives of the MPAA said Wednesday that they are continuing discussions with representatives of the electronics industry and consumer groups over a bill aimed at barring technology that potentially "induces" users to break copyright laws. Talks between the electronics and consumer groups and the recording industry broke down Wednesday, with representatives of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Consumer Electronics Assn. and NetCoalition, firing off a letter to Senator Orrin Hatch, author of the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, saying that the recording industry is seeking legislation that "would effectively put at risk all consumer electronics, information technology products and Internet products and services that aren't designed to the industry's liking."