ABC JOINS CBS'S CRITICS

A rival network news organization has joined other mainstream news media to raise questions about the authenticity of documents presented last week on ÌCBS's 60 Minutes that questioned George W. Bush's National Guard service in the early 1970s. ABC Tuesday night aired interviews with two document experts hired by CBS to examine the documents who said that they warned the network that they might be forgeries and advised it not to use them in the report. "I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter," North Carolina-based document examiner Emily Will told ABC. She said that she sent the producer of the news feature two email messages about her concerns, one on the night before the program aired. "I told them that all the quest∫ions I was asking them on Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document examiners on Thursday if they ran that story," Will said. Linda James, a Plano, TX-based document examiner hired by CBS, said that she expressed similar concerns. "I did not authenticate anything and I don't want it to be misunderstood that I did," James said. "And that's why I have come forth to talk about it because I don't want anybody to think I did authenticate these documents." Will and James later made similar comments in an interview appearing in today's (Wednesday) Washington Post. CBS later issued a statement saying that the two examiners "played a peripheral role and deferred to another expert." Meanwhile, the secretary of the man who reportedly wrote the memos told today's Dallas Morning News that she also believes the documents are fake. "They're not what I typed, and I would have typed them for hÊim," Marian Carr Knox told the newspaper. Nevertheless, she said, the contents reflected her boss's opinions of Bush. And Dan Rather, in an interview with today's Wall Street Journal commented that the affair is a case of "those who are uncomfortable with the truth of the broadcast seeking to change the subject...raising questions about the documents because they can't deny the fundamental truths of the analysis." Bush himself spoke to the annual convention of the National Guard in Las Vegas on Tuesday but avoided any mention of the controversy. But the Republican National Committee accused the Democrats of providing the memos used in the CBS telecast.

JOEY HELPS NBC WIN RATINGS VICTORY

During a transitional week between summer reruns and fall debuts, NBC, scurrying to take advantage of its new schedule, heavily promoted during its Olympics telecasts, easily came out on top of the Nielsen ratings. It was helped by three seasÊon or series premieres, with the Friends spinoff Joey landing at No. 1 with a 12.1 rating and a 20 share. The return of Donald Trump's Apprentice reality series scored a 9.3/14 to place fourth. (As the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes pointed out, it was the smallest audience ever for a Thursday original episode of the Trump series.) And NBC's new medical drama, Medical Investigation, unveiled in E.R.'s usual timeslot at 10:00 Thursday, wound up in eighth place, with a 9.3/14. NBC won the week with an average 6.0/10. CBS took second place with a 5.7/10. ABC followed with a 4.8/8, while Fox trailed with a 4.0/7.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Joey, NBC, 12.1/20; 2. NFL Football Opener (New England vs. Indianapolis), ABC, 11.4/20; 3. 2004 NFL Showcase, ABC, 9.7/16; 4. Apprentice 2, NBC, 9.3/14; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.1/14; 6. L1⁄2aw and Order, NBC, 8.3/14; 7. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.2/14; 8. Medical Investigation, NBC, 8.0/13; 9. Fox NFL Postgame Show (Sunday), 7.7/14; 10. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.5/12.

CAB PRIMETIME LIVE TRUMP TRUMP?

ABC's Primetime will once again become Primetime Live Thursday as the news magazine returns to a live presentation (on the East Coast) with a revamped format, graphics, and a satirical musical number. The season debut will also feature a segment by correspondent Chris Cuomo examining Donald Trump, which will air opposite Trump's own reality series, The Apprentice. Trump reportedly has warned the producers that he'll sue if the segment damages his reputation. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Hollywood Reporter, Trump acknowledged that he refused to be interviewed for the segment. "Why would I appear if they're putting it on against The Apprentice? Why wõould I do that?" he asked. An ABC news release said that the program will investigate Trump's finances and talk with his critics, ex-wife Marla Maples, "and the man himself in an off-camera interview."

TIVO USERS MAY ALTER TV AND AD BIZ, SAYS STUDY

Consumers who own TiVo-type digital video recorders (DVRs) use them during 60 percent of their total TV viewing time -- and skip 92 percent of the commercials while doing so, according to a report from Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research. In issuing the results of the survey, Forrester observed: "These habits are important because today's DVR users -- 5 percent of households -- will grow to 41 percent within five years" and therefore pose great opportunities and challenges to the TV and ad industries. Asked to rate the improvement of TV enjoyment as a result of owning a DVR on a scale of 1-5, the respondents replies averaged a 4.4. Only 2 percent of those who purchased the devices stopped using them.

OLDER WRITERS WIN A ÿROUND AGAINST NETWORKS

A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated numerous class-action lawsuits filed by television writers who claim that they have been the object of age discrimination policies by the TV networks. In its ruling, the court said that the writers "have properly alleged class-wide claims of a pattern or practice of age discrimination" by CBS, NBC , ABC, Fox, 12 production companies and 11 talent agencies.

SONY MINIATURIZES ITS MGM INVESTMENT

Two Japanese newspapers reported today (Wednesday) that Sony will put up only about $300 million of the nearly $5 billion being paid to acquire MGM from businessman Kirk Kerkorian. Neither the Nihon Keizai Shimbun nor the Yomiuri Shimbun cited sources for their report, which also indicated that Sony will probably increase its investment in the future. Its investment was limited for now, the newspapers said, because of its sluggish consumer electronics business ôand the large investment costs required for semiconductor operations. The other members of the investment consortium include Providence Equity Partners Ltd, Texas Pacific Group and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners.

COMCAST QUICKLY SETTING UP VIDEO-ON-DEMAND CHANNEL

Comcast wasted no time on Tuesday following the announcement that Sony had reached a tentative agreement with MGM to buy the studio to issue an announcement of its own saying that it had reached an agreement with the buyers to distribute Sony and MGM movies on a video-on-demand (VOD) channel. "This represents our first major studio deal for VOD content and will enhance the attractiveness of our VOD platform, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. He then added the intriguing but unexplained comment: "The agreement also provides us with some very interesting channel creation opportunities." News reports have also indicated that Comcast intends to become an investor in MGM.

PRODUCERS OF 199â6 FILM WANT TO DERAIL CRASH

The appearance at the Toronto Film Festival of a movie titled Crash, by writer-director Paul Haggis, has ruffled the feathers of the Canadian makers of another film with the same title, released in 1996. The new film, which was enthusiastically received when it debuted at the festival on Friday, has reportedly been sold to Lions Gate Films for $4 million. But today's (Wednesday) Toronto Star reports that the makers of the earlier movie are upset over the title. The newspaper said that Victor Loewy, distribution chief of Alliance Atlantis, has written to the producers of Haggis's film notifying them that Alliance Atlantis owns the title and plan to take legal action. Cronenberg commented, ""It's self-defeating if they use the same title, and will just lead to a lot of confusion and marketing problems." In its report, the Star quoted entertainment lawyer Michael Levine as saying that "the right to titles is a very murky aTrea." A check with the Internet Movie Data base indicates that, over the years, more than a dozen films titled Crash have been produced, including one made in 1996, the same year as Cronenberg's.

ANOTHER ITALIAN-AMERICAN GROUP WANTS TO SINK SHARK TALE

The Columbus Citizens Foundation, which produces New York's annual Columbus Day parade, has become the latest Italian-American organization to protest against Shark Tale, the DreamWorks animated film about the shark "underworld." The film features the voices of Robert De Niro, Peter Falk, and other actors who have appeared in HBO's The Sopranos. In a statement, the Columbus Citizens Foundation charged that the film makes "unprecedented use of ethnic stereotypes to characterize villains." The group's president, Lawrence Auriana, was quoted as sayingh, "It is startling that this entertainment should come from DreamWorks, one of whose principals, Steven Spielberg, has been an outspoken opponent of stereotyping and discrimination." A spokeswoman for DreamWorks called the group's complaints "wildly inaccurate" and maintained that the movie "is a positive, uplifting family film with nothing negative or demeaning about it."

DATE SET FOR VOTE ON NEWS CORP'S MOVE FROM AUSTRALIA

News Corp shareholders will vote on Oct. 26 in Adelaide on the proposed corporate move of the company from Australia to the United States. In a letter to shareholders, News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch urged a yes vote on the proposal, saying, "For more than 50 years I have been devoted to building News Corp. into one of the world's strongest and most highly respected media companies. I strongly believe that to continue tjo maximize returns for all shareholders, the company should 'reincorporate' in the U.S."

SHARK NIPS ANCHORMAN IN U.K.

The ultra-low-budget ($130,000) shark thriller Open Water opened at the top of the British box office over the weekend, earning $3.5 million on 378 screens. The Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which was expected to perform strongly, wound up in fifth place instead, earning only $988,000 on 291 screens. A writer for the online edition of Britain's Empire magazine expressed overcharged disappointment at the result. "Frankly we're disgusted by the turnout here," he wrote. "People of the United Kingdom, this is a movie of such inspired lunacy ... that you HAVE to see it. It is your duty. No, it is your destiny."