HDTV FOR EVERYONE?

Intel is expected to disclose next month that it has developed a new type of semiconductor that could make it possible for relatively thin, 50-inch, high-definition TV sets costing less than $1,000 to be available to consumers by the holiday season next year, the New York Times reported today (Wednesday), citing executives close to the company. The new technology, which Intel President and COO Paul Otellini is expected to unveil at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, opening Jan. 8, employs a system of tiny electronic shutters that can reflect light onto a low-cost flat panel to produce a high-definition picture that equals or exceeds the quality of current plasma and LCD displays, the Times reported.

CBS SURVIVES ON TOP

News coverage on Sunday night about the capture of Saddam Hussein may have drawn away a few viewers, but the finale of CBS's Survivor: Pearl Islands produced blockbuster ratings and, along with the regularSurvivor episode on Thursday and the reunion show on Sunday, enabled CBS to capture another ratings victory for the week with an average 8.4 rating and a 14 share. NBC placed second with a 7.4/12, followed by ABC with a 6.3/10. Fox trailed with a 4.9/8.

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

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 16.5/25; 2. Survivor: Pearl Islands -- Finale, CBS, 13.0/19; 3. Survivor: Pearl Islands, CBS, 12.8/20; 4. E.R., NBC, 12.7/21; 5. 60 Minutes, CBS, 11.9/18; 6. Trista & Ryan's Wedding, ABC, 11.8/18; 7. Survivor: Pearl Islands Reunion, CBS. 11.5/18; 8. Average Joe, NBC, 11.1/17; 9. Without a Trace, CBS, 11.0/18; 10. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 10.9/18.

AILES, EBERSOL RE-UP

Two top TV executives were signed to new multiyear contracts Tuesday by their respective networks. Roger Ailes was resigned by Fox News Channel to remain on as chairman, and Dick Ebersol was resigned by NBC to stay on as chairman of sports and Olympics. Also, John Seigenthaler has been named to replace Brian Williams as anchor of the nightly The News on CNBC when Williams succeeds Tom Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News following next year's presidential election.

REPORT: JACKSON'S PARENTS WERE PAID TO DEFEND HIM

The parents of Michael Jackson were paid to speak in his defense in a television program filmed by Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Productions that aired on Britain's ITV on Monday and was excerpted on ABC's 20/20last Friday, according to an article appearing on the MSNBC website, bylined by Jeannette Walls and Ashley Pearson. The article quoted an unnamed insider as saying that the Jacksons will receive a percentage of profits from international sales of the interview, paid to a third party. "They've had some financial problems, so they didn't want the money going directly to them because they don't want their creditors after it," according to the MSNBC source. An ABC spokesperson denied that the Jacksons were paid directly for the interview but declined to say whether they will be compensated through an intermediary. Meanwhile, officials in Santa Barbara said Wednesday that they expect to file charges against Michael Jackson by the end of the week.

BBC MAY BATTLE BRITISH NEWSPAPERS OVER REPORTERS' CONTRACTS

The BBC, which has barred its journalists from writing for outside publications, may find itself caught up in a legal battle with at least one newspaper that signed the BBC's world affairs editor to a long-term contract. The publicly supported broadcaster announced the ban following the recent special inquiry by Lord Hutton into the death of weapons expert David Kelly, which in part scrutinized the BBC's editorial practices. Subsequently, Dominic Lawson, editor of the Sunday Telegraph, warned that the corporation would have to compensate the paper if it forced John Simpson to give up his column. However, Britain's Guardiannewspaper reported today (Wednesday) that the BBC has decided to syndicate articles by its journalists after they are approved by senior management and would charge the Sunday Telegraph if it wished to continue running Simpson's.

NEWS CORP'S SKY NEWS FINED FOR BOGUS REPORT

Britain's Sky News has been fined more than $85,000 over a report that it aired during the recent Gulf war by a veteran reporter who committed suicide after the story was revealed to be concocted from file footage. The official British watchdog, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), nevertheless praised Sky News for quickly firing the reporter, James Forlong, and not attempting to "evade or minimize the importance of what had occurred." Before his death Forlong had admitted that he had committed "a lapse of judgment, which, for me, is a source of deep regret. There was never any conscious intent to deceive the viewers."

SAUDI ARABIA TO LAUNCH ANOTHER ALL-NEWS CHANNEL

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that it plans to launch its own satellite news channel early next year. It will compete with the two existing Middle East news channels, Qatar-based al-Jazeera and the United Arab Emirates' al-Arabiya. Culture and Information Minister Dr. Fouad Al-Farsy said that preparations for the channel's launch were in the final stages with "beta transmission" taking place already on the Internet.

MIRAMAX BETTING COLD CASH ON COLD MOUNTAIN

Miramax has been forced to take the biggest gamble in its history with the upcoming Cold Mountain, pouring more than $100 million of its own cash into the Civil War drama -- after MGM withdrew from co-financing it due to escalating costs and every other major studio in Hollywood subsequently refused to become a financial partner, the New York Times reported today (Wednesday). (Disney Chairman Michael Eisner reportedly recommended that Miramax drop the project.) The film's director, Anthony Minghella, told the newspaper that when in the midst of production he received word from Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein of the other studios' refusal to become involved, "I could see my life unraveling before me. ... [but] he said, 'Go ahead.'" Weinstein told the Times: "The problem with American business today is we don't allow ourselves to take the kind of risks we should in the arts. ... If you're saying you spent $80 million to do a comic-book movie, you could say I was crazy or nuts. The only impetus would have been to make money. This wasn't about making money."

BUTCH AND SUNDANCE GO TO WASHINGTON

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Patton (1970), starring George C. Scott, National Velvet (1944), starring Elizabeth Taylor, and Mel Brooks' Young Frankensteinare among 25 films added to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. Other films, described as historically important by the library, include Lewis Moomaw's 1924 silent film The Chechahcos, about the Alaska Gold Rush that was actually filmed in Alaska (the first feature ever filmed there) and Pixar's first effort at computerized animation in 1988, Tin Toy.

BROADCAST CRITICS MAKE EASTWOOD'S DAY

Clint Eastwood's Mystic River has flooded the nomination list of the Broadcast Film Critics Association's Critics" Choice awards. The Warner Bros. film was nominated in eight categories, including best picture, director (Eastwood), musical score (Eastwood), actor (Sean Penn), supporting actor (Tim Robbins), supporting actress (Marcia Gay Harden), best acting ensemble, and best adapted screenplay (Brian Helgeland). By contrast, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, managed to receive nominations in only four categories and was excluded from the best picture ring. Three other low-budget films also performed strongly: In America (seven nominations), Big Fish and Lost in Translation (five each).

FORTUNES PAID FOR ENTERTAINMENT MEMORABILIA AT AUCTION

A Christie's auction of entertainment memorabilia in London on Tuesday exhibited the skyrocketing value of such collectibles, with a stormtrooper's helmet from the original 1977 Star Wars fetching $34,161, far more than the $5,000 to $8,000 that the auctioned house had valued it at. A Rolex worn by George Lazenby in the 1969 James Bond flick On Her Majesty's Secret Service drew the highest winning bid -- $40,373. It had been expected to go for between $8,000 and $12,000. However, bidding for the Superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve in the 1978 feature failed to rise above the seller's reserve and went unsold.

MEXICAN DVD DISTRIBUTORS FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE

In an effort to combat DVD piracy in Mexico, video distributors in the country are teaming up with the Motion Picture Association of America to offer double-movie "Special Edition" discs at the same prices as bootleg versions -- or lower -- in public places where the pirates thrive, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Wednesday). Carlos Cayon, an exec at distributor Videomax, told the newspaper that his company had cut the price on more than 200 titles to about $4.50 each, aware that unless drastic measures were taken, "our business is finished." Pirate disks have been selling for about $5.50 in Mexico, the Journal observed. It also noted that the same movies can be played on American DVD equipment but that so few have made their way out of Mexico that studios have not expressed concern thus far.