IDOL VIEWERS LOVE ITS LOVE SONGS
Although some critics described the love songs featured on Tuesday night's edition of American Idol as "sappy," the show continued to steamroll the competition. It drew a 16.4 rating and a 25 share at 8:00 p.m. and once again proved to be a powerful lead-in for House which followed at 9:00 p.m.. The drama pulled a 14.8/22. CBS and ABC wound up in a virtual dead heat in the 10:00 p.m. hour with CBS's CSI: Miami and ABC's Boston Legal scoring a 6.8/11 and a 6.7/11 respectively.

MARTIN WANTS CABLERS TO CARRY BROADCASTERS' DIGITAL OUTLETS

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin indicated on Tuesday that he favors reviving consideration of a rule that would require cable operators to carry all digital multicasts by broadcast TV stations. The current so-called must carry rule requires only that cable operators carry the primary signal of broadcasters. Last year a proposal to extend the rule to all broadcast multicast streams -- including HDTV and specialized programming offered by broadcasters -- was rejected 4-1, with Martin being the dissenter. Martin told reporters at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas that he would revive the matter only if he was sure of backing from a majority of the commission. One commissioner has joined the FCC since the 2005 vote and another has been nominated and is awaiting confirmation. Their views on the must-carry rule are not known.

GROUP PUTS PRESSURE ON SENATE TO INCREASE INDECENCY FINES

The Christian Coalition has mounted a campaign to back passage of legislation raising the cap on fines meted out for airing indecent programs for $32,500 to $500,000. Although the House passed such legislation by an overwhelming vote last year, it has languished in the Senate as broadcast lobbyists have argued that V-chip technology, if employed by parents, can prevent children from watching objectionable programs. On Tuesday FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters at the NAB convention that the technology alone is inadequate since a significant number of homes own sets that were manufactured before the V-chip was required to be installed. Asked by a reporter to define indecency, Martin demurred, remarking, "When the commission's indecency rules were originally upheld by the Supreme Court, it was on a monologue by George Carlin entitled 'The Seven Words You Can't Say on TV and Radio.' ... Well, the commission's findings recently did not extend beyond some of those same words.

CRITIC OF CBS NEWSCAST APPOINTED VICE PRESIDENT OF CBS NEWS

A former TV news producer who wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal offering his suggestions on how CBS ought to revamp The CBS Evening News has been hired by the network and given the title of vice president of CBS News. Paul Friedman who once was an ABC News executive vice president and managing editor for news coverage had written in the Journal last year that he thought innovative ways to integrate commentary into the CBS broadcast would draw a younger audience. "Why not use animation and puppet caricatures to convey opinion?" he asked. He also recommended giving Jon Stewart and Tucker Carlson a platform on the program and devoting one "big chunk of time -- 10 minutes or so -- to covering one really good story."

RATINGS: SAME OLD, SAME OLD

The list of top-rated TV shows last week looked pretty much like the list the week before, with Fox taking top honors with American Idol and winning the week among adults 18-49 and CBS winning in overall households. Yet the low total number of viewers indicated that many were deserting the network's reruns and switching to cable shows. Most of the shows airing on all four networks last week were repeats as the broadcasters got set for the May sweeps, which officially get under way on Thursday. CBS won the week with an average 7.8 rating and a 13 share. Fox placed second with a 6.1/10. ABC followed with a 5.3/9, while NBC trailed with a 4.7/8.

NBC NEWSMAG DRAWS FIRE FOR PREDATOR SERIES

NBC plans to air four special editions of its magazine show Dateline on Wednesdays beginning tonight and continuing through the May sweeps. The specials show "stings" in which alleged pedophiles operating in Internet chat rooms are lured to houses in several cities, only to be confronted by Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen and then arrested by local police -- all captured by hidden cameras. The new broadcasts follow three similar ones that aired during Dateline's regular time period earlier this year. TV writers could not recall any previous television news magazine devoting eight entire programs to a single subject. While drawing praise from groups like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the programs have also been roundly criticized by several journalists' groups, particularly, the Poynter Institute, the respected journalism school based in St. Petersburg, FL. Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the school, told today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times, that colleagues were particularly concerned about tonight's episode in which members of the group Perverted Justice, who are paid by NBC to pose as juveniles and lure marks to the house, were also deputized by the local sheriff. "By working with a group that has been deputized, Dateline is essentially partnering with local law enforcement," McBride said. "Even if the outcome is a desirable outcome, in the long run it undermines their ability to serve as a watchdog."

FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR NAMED WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY

Tony Snow, host of Fox News Channel's Weekend Live With Tony Snow and host of a daily talk show on Fox News Radio has been chosen to replace Scott McClellan as White House press secretary. Announcing his selection, President Bush said today (Wednesday), "I like the perspective he brings to this job, and I think you're going to like it, too." Commenting on some of Snow's past criticisms of him, Bush remarked, "He sometimes has disagreed with me. I asked him about those comments, and he said, `You should have heard what I said about the other guy.'''

TRIBECA FEST OPENS WITH UNITED 93
Organizers of the Tribeca film festival, which opened Tuesday with the premiere of United 93, gave the film their full endorsement as the industry continued to debate whether such a film can be successful at the box office. (A Canadian headline about the movie described it as "The Most Powerful Film No One Will Want to See.") Robert De Niro, who cofounded the festival with Jane Rosenthal in 2002, remarked that the movie "honors bravery and sacrifice." Rosenthal said, "I was downtown on Sept. 11. I've lived with this every day. It's not too soon [for the movie to be released]." Reporters attending the screening said that at the end of the movie, the audience sat in stunned silence, while the families of the 9/11 victims who attended sobbed and wailed in a balcony section of the theater set aside for them. FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman, who attended, said that he had never heard such anguish in a movie house. "It was gut wrenching, and it was terrifying. I don't know if United 93 has given them closure or permission to keep reliving this horror."

ITALIAN OFFICIALS TEAR DOWN DA VINCI CODE POSTER

In what some viewed as a harbinger of widespread international controversy over the upcoming movie version of The Da Vinci Code, the Italian Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday that it will remove a poster promoting the film from the scaffolding erected at St. Pantaleo church in Rome. The poster was "causing a problem," the Rev. Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for Rome's Vicariate, told the Associated Press. "This movie is not reputed to be particularly appreciated by ecclesiastic circles," he added. the Rev. Adolfo Garcia Duran, St. Pantaleo's rector, told A.P.: "It advertises something that is against Christ and against the church."

RUMOR HAS IT MAKES DVD HISTORY

Rob Reiner's Rumor Has It went virtually unnoticed when it opened theatrically on Christmas Day last year (It earned just $7.5 million over the holiday weekend.) But it is going down in history as the first film to be released on DVD in high definition on one side of the disk and standard definition on the other. Warner Home Video plans to have it in stores on May 9 (along with the regular DVD version). In an interview with Home Media Retailing magazine, WHV exec Steve Nickerson said that the "hybrid" discs will give "consumers the greatest flexibility in viewing options: If they own an HD DVD player, they'll get all the benefits of HD DVD. ... If they're considering a future purchase of an HD DVD player, they can still enjoy the movie [on their existing DVD player] until they upgrade."

CLOONEY AND FATHER TRAVEL TO SUDAN

George Clooney has taken his social activism beyond movies like Good Night, and Good Luck and Syrianna and has traveled with his father, TV newsman Nick Clooney, to Darfur in the Sudan, where a rebellion has reportedly claimed the lives of 180,000 and created 2 million refugees. The actor and his journalist father reportedly moved about incognito, along with cameraman Mike Herron, who captured scenes of the horrific conditions in Darfur. "This is an ongoing and terrible story that we were able to see up close," Nick Clooney told the Cincinnati Post. These folks are helpless out there. There's nobody between them and very bad people." Their trip was timed to draw attention to the "Rally to Stop Genocide" scheduled to take place next Sunday in Washington. The Clooneys have been booked on several TV talk shows to discuss their trip to the area.

CRUISE SPENDS FOUR HOURS WITH FANS

Tom Cruise, who was expected to withdraw from a publicity tour to support his Mission: Impossible 3 following the birth of his daughter Suri, has resumed it with a vengeance. British reports said that he spent four hours on the red carpet outside the London premiere of the movie, signing autographs, talking to fans, and chatting with their friends on cell phones. He is due to be on hand for the French premiere in Paris tonight.