CBS SHOWS PHOTO OF DYING DIANA
An international uproar was touched off Wednesday night when CBS's 48 Hours Investigates aired never-before-published photos of Princess Diana lying in the wreckage of her car following the crash that took her life along with her lover, Dodi al-Fayed. The television program also cited information included in a 4,000-page report about the accident prepared by French investigators but never released. The BBC said British news media had decided not to publish the photos out of respect for Diana's two sons. In a statement, Harrods department store owner Mohamed al-Fayed, Dodi's father, maintained that, despite CBS's independent investigation that essentially corroborated the conclusion of the French authorities, "This was a crime -- the murder of two innocent people. CBS obviously doesn't care about the appalling effect of showing images of murder victims. They simply want to cash in on the tragedy. It is disgraceful and insensitive of them to do this. It is devastating for me and for Prince William and Prince Harry." Britain's Guardian newspaper editorialized that CBS had decided to "plumb new depths of prurience in the Princess Diana industry." "Fury at TV Photo of Dying Diana" headlined the Daily Mail. The Daily Mirror called the publication of the photos "horribly offensive." Meanwhile, French film producers announced Wednesday that they plan to bring to the screen a movie version of Laurence Cosse's novel about the crash, Le 31 Aout 1997.
TAPE DELAY MAY COME TO C-SPAN
For the first time, C-Span may air one of its regular programs with a five-second tape delay in order to waylay prank callers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today (Thursday). "I'm a purist on the First Amendment," C-Span Chairman Brian Lamb told the newspaper. "But it's not fair that people have to listen to young white men calling the network day after day and using four-letter words to get their jollies." He INSISTED that the daily call-in show, Washington Journal, is now receiving at least one or two prank calls each day. Lamb maintained that he is not reacting to the furor that ensued following the Janet Jackson incident in February. He said that while the channel has always boasted that it provided free unfettered access to viewers to comment on the events of the day, the prank callers "tend to feed off each other."
SEX AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE, SAYS CRITIC
New York Daily News TV critic David Bianculli has seen the "cleaned up" version of Sex and the City set to air on basic cable TBS and has called it "a @#%! stupid idea." Among the deletions he describes: "Lots of words that can't be printed in this newspaper, for one. Snippets of dialogue and flashes of nudity, for another. The gist of each story line is there, but some of the edgiest observations and funniest jokes are gone, and Kim Cattrall's catty character, Samantha, has had her claws trimmed way back, if not removed entirely." Bianculli concludes: "The only people who can enjoy Sex and the City on TBS are those who don't subscribe to HBO, don't buy or rent the unedited versions on DVD, and won't know any better when they see the diluted versions. To people who have been able to see the original versions, though, the new cuts won't make it."
ITN NEWS ASKS REPORTERS NOT TO APPLY FOR MEDALS
Britain's ITN television news service is reportedly discouraging journalists who were embedded with British forces during the Iraq war from applying for medals that the Ministry of Defense had planned to hand out. ITN, which provides news footage to the commercial networks ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as a number of radio stations, said that it viewed such medal presentations as "inappropriate." An ITN spokeswoman told the Guardian newspaper: "I think the phrase used by the Ministry of Defense was 'in recognition of service,' which we felt pretty uncomfortable about." Critics had expressed reservations about the embedding program, saying that it presented only one side of the conflict.
RACIST REMARKS COST SOCCER COMMENTATOR HIS JOB
A British soccer commentator was forced to resign Wednesday after his racist remarks about black soccer star Marcel Desailly, made during a conversation after the game, were picked up by an open mike and broadcast in several countries. After learning that his comments had been broadcast, Ron Atkinson, a former soccer club manager, told Britain's Guardian newspaper: "I made a stupid mistake which I regret. It left me no option but to resign. At the moment I can't believe I did it. If you look at my track record as a manager, I was one of the first managers in the game to give black players a chance." However, Piara Powar, director of the sport's anti-racism campaign, said: "Regardless of his record, that sort of terminology is just simply out of bounds."
CNN INTERRUPTS KING'S INTERVIEW WITH TRUMP FOR JACKSON REPORT
Larry King was in the midst of an interview with Donald Trump and several recent contestants on The Apprentice Wednesday night when his program was interrupted by word from a CNN reporter that a grand jury in California had indicted Michael Jackson on child molestation charges. Following the report, King remarked, "I know you know him, Donald. Any reaction to this?" Trump responded: "He's lived in Trump Tower, and I know him very well. And I don't believe it. I'm going to stick up for him, because nobody else is." Commenting on Jackson's upcoming trial, Trump remarked: "It's tough to win, but I have a feeling he's going to win, Larry." Not missing a beat, King responded: "Speaking of winners, all of our guests tonight are really winners, right, Donald?"
WILL THE LION RETURN TO ITS LAIR?
MGM, which once occupied the vast studio lot in Culver City that is now the home of Sony Films, may return to that locale if negotiations with Sony and two buyout firms close successfully. MGM and DreamWorks are the only "majors" that do not own a traditional studio lot. Published reports said today that negotiations between Sony, Texas Pacific Group and Providence Equity Partners on the one hand and representatives of MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. on the other are in advanced stages. According to news reports, each of the three partners would put up $1.5 billion in cash and borrow an additional $500 million. Reports said that Sony initiated the talks principally to gain control of MGM's vast film library and to acquire rights to the James Bond franchise. Following reports of the deal, MGM shares zoomed 11.9 percent to $19.75 on the NYSE. A $5-billion sale would value each share at $21.
STUDIOS ENJOY A RECORD YEAR
After all of the so-called "ancillary" revenue was tallied up, the major movie studios were able to boast Wednesday that they had set a new record in total revenue last year of $41.9 billion, Daily Variety reported today (Thursday). The figure compares with the previous record of $36.5 billion set in 2002. The huge leap in financial gain was attributed primarily to sales of DVDs. The studios also credited a significant rise in sales to broadcast television stations and a surge in ticket sales overseas.
DILLER MOVES OUT OF THE WAY OF NBC-UNIVERSAL MERGER
Removing what appeared to be the last roadblock to the merger of NBC and Universal, Barry Diller and Vivendi on Wednesday resolved their dispute over the sale. The complicated settlement removes the possibility that Diller might use his considerable interests in Vivendi's entertainment properties to block the sale. News reports indicated that the terms of the announced agreement were vague about whether Diller would become a significant shareholder in the new NBC-Universal.
DUCHOVNY SAYS X-FILES MOVIE TO START FILMING WITHIN A YEAR
David Duchovny indicated Wednesday that a second X-Files motion picture is moving closer to realization. The longtime star of the Fox TV series (1993-2002) told TV Guide's online site: "I think [the movie] definitely will happen. ... [X-Files writers] Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz have an idea they like. They keep threatening to tell me [about it], and I wish they would." Duchovny said that the two writers have just begun turning out the screenplay, "and we'll be doing it within the next year." The actor also disclosed that a "big-name" star will also be brought aboard for the movie, someone "who can really score in a great thriller/sci-fi role. ... So I hope that takes the [movie] toward the [TV show's] fans but also toward new fans at the same time."
BLOCKBUSTER TO LAUNCH MASSIVE TRADE-IN PROGRAM
Some 2,000 Blockbuster Video stores plan to participate in a new DVD trade-in program that will allow customers to trade their used DVDs for credit that they can use to pay for new and used movies and games, rentals, and merchandise, Video Store magazine reported Wednesday. The company currently allows customers to buy certain new DVD releases at a reduced price with a trade-in. Blockbuster Chairman and CEO John Antioco said, "We believe trading has the potential to drive retail sales of both new and used movies and is yet another way to distinguish ourselves from the competition." The company also plans to launch in-store and online subscription programs later this year. But analysts interviewed by the trade publication expressed skepticism that parent Viacom, which has acknowledged that it plans to spin off the company, will allow Blockbuster to spend the money necessary to pull off the ambitious new programs.
MTV MOVIE FANS LOVE PIRATES
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl shanghaied a leading six nominations for the MTV Movie Awards Wednesday, including best movie. Johnny Depp was nominated for best male performance, best comedic performance, and, with Orlando Bloom, best on-screen team. Depp's inclusion in the male performance category puts him in odd company: Jim Caviezel, nominated for The Passion of the Christ (the film's only MTV nod), Adam Sandler for 50 First Dates, Tom Cruise for The Last Samurai, and Bill Murray for Lost in Translation.
GODSEND WEBSITE FOOLS ANTI-CLONING PARTISANS
A website intended to promote the upcoming movie Godsend, starring Robert De Niro, about a Massachusetts fertility clinic that can make clone copies of dead children, has apparently aroused the indignation of human cloning foes who have concluded that the clinic is real. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (which likened the website to Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio drama that suckered a large number of people into believing that Martians had attacked Earth), the website has resulted in a petition being circulated at the www.petitionspot.com with comments like: "We have no right to be creating lives in this manner." Another signer, however, responded: "It's a movie, you morons!"