NBC DEFENDS CENSORING REMARKS BY KANYE WEST
NBC's decision to edit remarks by rap star Kanye West during the West Coast rebroadcast of a benefit concert for hurricane victims has set off a storm in its own right within the news media. West departed from a prepared script during the telecast, remarking, "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food. ... George Bush doesn't care about black people." West was referring to captions that appeared on Associated Press photos published nationally last week, one showing a black man carrying supplies and reading, "A young man walks through chest-deep flood water after looting a grocery store;" the other showing a white couple carrying similar supplies and reading, "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store." Asked on ABC's Good Morning America last Thursday whether he saw any difference between people who were entering stores to take TV sets and those taking food and water, President Bush responded, "I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this." NBC later defended its decision to cut West's remarks about Bush from the West Coast feed, saying "It would be most unfortunate if the efforts of the artists who participated and the millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's personal opinion." On Sunday, Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn wrote that NBC's action "violated the most moving and essential moment in an otherwise sterile, self-serving corporate broadcast" and said that West's comments "would have been cheered more than anything else in the program by the black parents and children still trapped in the New Orleans Convention Center and Superdome if they had been able to hear them." Hilburn's comments were echoed today (Monday) by Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim Derogatis, who said that West, who just a week earlier had made the cover of Time magazine, which described his middle-class upbringing and the strong family-values messages of his music, had seemed to change his tune by aligning himself with Bush's critics. "And while he is being criticized by many on the right -- and will no doubt pay a price with some lost album sales and less radio play in more conservative markets -- he did Americans a service by putting the issue on the table for national debate." However, on the Republican blog redstate.org, writer Darren Milton commented, "As revolting as Hilburn's despicably holier-than-thou attitude is towards NBC, his all-seeing eye somehow seems to miss the sheer offensiveness of an entertainer utilizing the platform of a fundraiser to fire off some salvos at a sitting president."

REPORT: NBC NEWS CHIEF TO QUIT

NBC News President Neal Shapiro is expected to step down as early as this week, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday), citing several network sources familiar with the situation. The newspaper said that Shapiro's decision to quit was prompted by NBC Universal officials who had expressed dissatisfaction with his unassuming management style, which was not conducive to the "high-profile demands" of his job. The Times said that NBC has not decided on a replacement. The network declined comment on the report.

RUSSIANS BAR ABC-TV FROM COVERING EVENT IN BESLAN

An ABC-TV news crew was barred last week from covering ceremonies marking the first anniversary of the clash in Beslan, Russia between Chechen rebels and police that left hundreds dead, most of them children. The Russian action came just weeks after officials of the Foreign Ministry, angered by an interview that ABC had broadcast with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, announced that they would not renew the accreditation of ABC journalists when they expire at the end of the year. Bloomberg News said that when asked about the decision to bar the ABC-TV crew from Beslan School No. 1, where the attack took place, Ksenia Gokoyeva, a spokeswoman for North Ossetian President Taimuraz Mamsurov, said, "We all know that they lost their accreditation after the Basayev interview."

LOST: THE MOVIE?

Several British entertainment-related websites were abuzz today (Monday) over a dubious report that three Hollywood studios are attempting to secure the rights to make a theatrical movie based on the ABC-TV hit Lost. The reports said that the movie project was being launched primarily to avert a crisis over pay involving the TV cast, who, the reports said, objected to earning only a fifth of what their counterparts on Desperate Housewives do. Undermining the stories is the fact that Lost is owned by Disney's Touchstone TV, and that its movie studio would likely make any film version of the series; that Lost's cast is at least three times the size of Housewives'; that the producers must incur the added cost of housing them in Hawaii, and that Lost has not drawn audiences that are as large as Housewives'.

TRANSPORTER 2 TRANSPORTED TO NO. 1

Although official studio estimates for the Labor Day weekend will not be released until later today (Monday), it appeared that The Transporter 2 would make a stronger-than-expected showing, given its $5.7-million take on Friday and its $5.8-million take on Saturday. It was reasonable to expect that the film would wind up earning about $17 million for the three-day weekend and about $20 million for the four-day. Also performing strongly was the critically praised The Constant Gardener, which earned $7 million from Wednesday through Saturday in just 1,346 theaters, producing the highest per-theater average of any film in wide release. It could wind up with about $10 million before the holiday weekend is over and finish in third place. The third week of Universal's The 40-Year-Old Virgin also continued to perform well. It is likely to gross about $13.5 million for the holiday weekend, to finish second.

STUDIO CHIEFS WIND UP SUMMER WITH COLLECTIVE GROAN

Hollywood operated under a cloud from the beginning of summer to the end of the season this weekend, Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told the Associated Press on Sunday. "Usually, the first weekend in May, you have a big film that kind of kicks off the summer. It didn't happen that way this time, and that was sort of an indicator of things to come," he said. Steven Friedlander, head of distribution for Warner Independent Pictures, which had one of the summer's few hits with March of the Penguins, suggested that it was unlikely that Hollywood will learn from the mistakes it made this past season. "In an ideal world, people would say 'OK, we have to think more creatively, we have to think outside the box and come up with new and different things,'" Friedlander told AP. "But I'm afraid what's going to happen is, we're all going to sit in a room and say 'We need more penguin movies.'"

TOUGHER PAPARAZZI PENALTIES PROPOSED

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Rhonda Saunders is advocating a measure that would strengthen laws against paparazzi who stalk movie celebrities. Current laws call for a fine of up to $50,000. "Big deal," Saunders told Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. "If a photographer is sued and ordered to pay $50,000, but he gets paid $250,000 for the picture, it's just the cost of doing business. That statute is not a deterrent." Instead, she is proposing a law that would impose a restraining order on paparazzi who are convicted of violating the law. "This could be very effective because then they'd have more to lose," said Saunders.

INDIAN COURT PERMITS "VULGAR" MOVIE TO BE SHOWN

The Supreme Court of India has overruled the Madras High Court and has allowed the controversial movie New to be screened in the country. The Madras court had ordered a censor board to revoke its "A" certificate, which would have allowed the film to be shown to adults 18 and over. The court ssaid at the time that "the film conveyed only one message namely vulgarity and vulgarity alone and nothing more."