IDOL AD PRICE SETS RECORD

The price for a 30-second commercial on Fox's American Idol has risen to $705,000, the most ever asked for a regular primetime television spot, AdWeek reported today (Monday). (The pricetag has been affixed to all spots on the Wednesday editions of the program; spots on the Tuesday editions are going for $660,000 each.) Ad buyers apparently are not balking at the figure, noting that Idol was the highest-rated show of last season. The average price of all 30 second spots airing during the new fall season is $150,000. The only other show topping $500,000 is ABC's Desperate Housewives, which commands $560,000.

FOOTBALL OVERRUN WINS NIGHT FOR FOX

An overrun of Fox's telecast of its first NFL football game of the regular season on Sunday scored a 12.4 rating and a 21 share in the 7:00 hour and was enough to give Fox a win for the night, despite the fact that it scored no other top-rated shows elsewhere during primetime. Its roll-out of new comedies, however, airing mostly opposite repeats on other networks, did all right, however, each of them ending up in second place for the night. A particularly strong performer was The Simpsons, which nabbed a second-place 8.6/13 at 8:00 p.m. NBC remained down in the dumps as it moved a repeat of The West Wing into its new berth on Sunday night, only to see it relegated to fourth place with a 3.37 average between them."

GOVERNMENT BACKS DOWN; TV ALLOWED TO FILM BODIES

Federal and local officials supervising rescue and recovery efforts in New Orleans reversed their policy of barring the news media from covering their activities. Their decision came after a federal judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order, effectively halting enforcement of a "zero access" policy announced earlier in the day by the officials. The judge had been expected to issue a permanent injunction over the weekend, but it became unnecessary when officials announced that they would not "bar, impede or prevent news media from their news gathering and reporting activities in connection with the deceased Hurricane Katrina victim recovery efforts." CNN News Group President Jim Walton later sent an email message to CNN staff saying that the cable news network had asked for the injunction to "prohibit any agency from restricting its ability to fully and fairly cover" the recovery efforts. He added that CNN had always "shown that it is capable of balancing vigorous reporting with respect for private concerns. ... It is not the place of government to replace its own internal judgment for that of a free and independent media."

ANCHOR WILLIAMS FORECASTS ANCHORS WILL GROW TOUGHER WITH GOVERNMENT

Acknowledging that after the 9/11 attacks four years ago, journalists had offered to government leaders "a preponderance of the benefit of the doubt," NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams said over the weekend that covering the inept response of government to Hurricane Katrina may bring "a healthy amount of cynicism back to a news media known for it." Indeed, several reporters who were most diligent in holding officials' feet to the fire have had their reputations burnished by their passionate coverage of the hurricane aftermath, particularly Fox's Shepard Smith (who was invited to appear on David Letterman's show), CNN's Anderson Cooper, CBS's Tracy Smith, and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.

YAHOO! ASSIGNS VIDEOGRAPHER TO COVER WARS -- WHEREEVER

Freelance videographer Kevin Sites, who ignited an international controversy when he photographed a U.S. Marine shooting an unarmed wounded Iraqi in a Fallouja mosque last year, then wrote about it on his blog, has been hired by Yahoo! to report from international hot spots beginning Sept. 26. Reporting on the hiring, today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times observed that it represents "the clearest evidence yet that Yahoo! feels ready to compete with TV networks for viewers and advertisers."

CHRIS SCHENKEL DEAD AT 82.

Sportscaster Chris Schenkel, whose career in broadcasting spanned six decades, died Sunday in Fort Wayne, IN at age 82. His "firsts" included calling the first televised Masters Thournament in 1956, calling the first coast-to-coast televised college football game, and being the first to serve as a live sports anchor at the Olympic Games. He received a lifetime achievement Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1993.

BOX OFFICE COMES UP ROSE-Y

In what Daily Variety suggested was a "shocker" for box-office observers, Sony-Screen Gems's The Exorcism of Emily Rose debuted with $30.2 million over the weekend -- far higher than even the most optimistic forecasts. It was the third-biggest September opening ever -- behind 2002's Sweet Home Alabama ($35.6 million) and 1998's Rush Hour ($33 million). However, a second new film, The Man, performed well below analysts' predictions, taking in just $4 million, putting it in sixth place. Remaining in second place was The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which tallied $7.9 million in ticket sales in its fourth week, bringing its gross to $82.3 million. Last week's top film, Transporter 2, was transported to No. 3 with $7.2 million. Showing on just 1,381 screens, The Constant Gardener continued to perform strongly with $19.1 million. Also, in its ninth week, New Line's Wedding Crashers took in $3.2 million to put it over the $200-million mark. It finished in eighth place.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, $30.2 million; 2. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, $7.9 million; 3. Transporter 2, $7.2 million; 4. The Constant Gardener, $4.8 million; 5. Red Eye, $4.6 million; 6. The Man, $4.0 million; 7. The Brothers Grimm, $3.3 million; 8. Wedding Crashers, $3.2 million; 9. Four Brothers, $2.9 million; 10. March of the Penguins, $2.5 million.

GAY COWBOY MOVIE WINS AT VENICE

Brokeback Mountain, director Ang Lee's controversial movie about gay love between two cowboys, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival on Saturday. Accepting the award, Lee gave special thanks to writer Annie Proulx for her "moving great American love story." The film won out over the crowd favorite at Venice, George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck a film about the clash between CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow and Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in the early 1950s. David Straithairn, who played Murrow in the movie, won the best actor award. Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno won the best actress award for her performance in La Bestia nel Cuore. France's Philippe Garrel won the director's award for Les Amants Reguliers.

A HEFTY TOBACCO SETTLEMENT PAID TO TORONTO FILMMAKER

Fox Searchlight has paid a reported $6.5 million for Jason Reitman's independently produced Thank You for Smoking, about a tobacco industry lobbyist (Aaron Eckhart), who is constantly trying to explain his occupation to his young son, played by Cameron Bright. The Toronto Star said that the audience response to the film on Saturday set off a bidding frenzy that led to the highest price ever being paid for a film at the festival. Reitman, the son of Canadian producer-director Ivan Reitman (Ghost Busters, Twins, Kindergarten Cop), told the Canadian Press wire service, "This has been a whirlwind. ... I'm kind of in a dream and I'm waiting to wake up."

LAWMAKERS CRACK DOWN ON VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES

In what could open the door for legislation making it a crime for movie theaters to allow children under 18 to see an R-rated film unless accompanied by an adult, the California legislature has voted overwhelmingly to bar merchants from selling or renting violent video games to anyone under 18. Violators could be fined $1,000. The author of the bill, San Francisco Democrat Lelam Yee, has said that government oversight of such video game sales was called for because, unlike movies, which are passive, video games require active decisions by players about who and how to kill. Yee is also a child psychologist. Governor Schwarzenegger has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.

SONY TO COMBINE MOVIE, VIDEO GAME FOR PLAYSTATION PORTABLE DEVICE

Sony's Stealth, which bombed at the box office last month, will become the first movie combined with a video game when it is released in the Sony PlayStation Portable's UMD format on Nov. 15, Sony announced today (Monday). Wipeout Pure: Stealth Edition will reportedly include the first three levels of the PSP racing game "Wipeout Pure: Stealth Edition." The release will have a suggested price of $39.95, higher than the average DVD price but lower than the average video-game price.