GIBSON CHAT RESURRECTS ABC'S RATINGS Diane Sawyer's interview with Mel Gibson on a special edition of ABC's Primetimegave CBS's CSI:Miamia run for the money Monday night, but it was not quite enough to lift the newsmagazine into first place in the 10:00 p.m. hour. The interview with Gibson, in which he discussed his controversial movie The Passion of the Christ,drew an 11.2 rating and a 17 share, a notch below the 12.3/19 for Miami.NBC'sAverage Joe: Hawaii was well below in third place with a 7.6/12 in the hour. Earlier, the premiere of Fox's The Littlest Groom at 8:00 p.m. drew a 4.9/8, good enough for third place behind the finale of Fear Factor's couples series, which scored a 10.6/16 and CBS's Yes, Dear, which pulled a 7.5/11. The highest-rated show of the night was CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond, which recorded a 12.2/18 at 9:00 p.m. Overall, CBS won the night with an average 10.6/16. NBC placed second with an 8.7/13. Fox followed with a 7.1/11, while ABC trailed with a 6.9/10.


NBC News is expected to announce today (Tuesday) that it has hired Rick Kaplan, the former ABC News producer and onetime CNN president, to run its struggling MSNBC cable network. The network is co-owned by NBC and Microsoft. Most recently Kaplan had been overseeing ABC's political coverage. Kaplan has been anathema to conservative media watchdog groups who have accused him of manipulating news programs to reflect a liberal slant and fostering a cozy relationship with Bill Clinton during the former president's tribulations. (He was a guest in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House twice.) His appointment comes at a time when MSNBC appeared to be attempting to remake itself in the image of cable news leader Fox News Channel by featuring a number of conservative contributors, including Joe Scarborough, Chris Matthews, and Peggy Noonan. Kaplan has a reputation for a volatile temper and his verbal skirmishes with news personalities are legendary, particularly one with CNN financial commentator Lou Dobbs, who left the network in 2000 following a clash with Kaplan. Kaplan will replace Erik Sorenson, who will remain with the company in an undisclosed capacity.


Walt Street analysts, arguing that the future performance of Time Warner will be largely judged on the results of its cable division, are faulting the company for "plodding along with single growth rates," the Wall Street Journalobserved in its "Heard on the Street" column today (Tuesday). "Cable is the key driver of the company for the next several years," T. Row Price analyst Henry Ellenbogen told the newspaper, indicating that Time Warner is not putting enough muscle behind it. Morris Mark, president of Mark Asset Management, added: "They've got to improve cable marketing." However, analysts expressed concern that the market for such cable side items as broadband Internet access and telephone services may be maturing and facing intense pricing competition -- producing a slowdown in growth rather than an upsurge. Moreover, as Sanford Bernstein analyst Tom Wolzien told the Journal: "They are clearly losing market share to satellite."


Warner Bros. Home Video says it plans to release nearly 30 classic television series on DVD over the next five years. Mike Saksa, the company's marketing chief, told USA Today that sales of TV shows on DVD are up 98 percent from last year, with baby boomers the heaviest purchasers. The company said that it decided to release Gilligan's Islandfirst because its research showed that it had "99 percent awareness among DVD households and the highest purchase intent." Other home video distributors also appeared to be stepping up efforts to release classic TV DVD pacakges, many of them containing uncut episodes that have not been seen since the original shows went into syndication.


The Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC), in an apparent effort to avoid the kind of scandal that racked its British counterpart, the BBC, has launched an investigation of its editorial procedures to ensure that they can apprehend any lapse in the integrity of its news reports. The ABC has recently been the object of numerous complaints by members of the Australian government that its coverage of Iraq has manifested anti-American bias. ABC managing director Russell Balding said that investigators will examine the findings by Britain's Lord Hutton, who called a BBC report on Iraq "unfounded" and the BBC editorial oversight process "defective." Balding said that investigators will compare the BBC procedures "to the current ABC processes and procedures to see if we are satisfied that ours are of such rigor to avoid a similar situation occurring at the ABC." ALMOST A MILLION DOLLARS A DATE50 First Dates earned its first $46 million over the four-day Presidents Day weekend, according to studio estimates. The figure represented the best February opening ever for a romantic comedy and was second only behind 2001's Hannibal, which debuted with $58 million, for overall honors for the month. Last weekend's leader, Barbershop 2: Back in Business,and Miracleeach reported an estimated gross of $16.3 million. Remaining films fell far behind the leaders. The Butterfly Effect placed fourth with $6.2 million, just above You Got Served, which landed in fifth place with $6.0 million. Because of the holiday, final results will not be announced until later today (Tuesday).


Disney's board of directors drew a line in the sand on Monday, unanimously rejecting the hostile takeover bid from cable operator Comcast Corp. and giving a ringing endorsement of the "business, financial and creative direction of Disney under the leadership of Michael Eisner." Comcast responded that its proposal "reflects a full and generous valuation based upon Disney's prospects and performance over a long period of time." Since Comcast shares have fallen and Disney shares risen since the stock-swap proposal was announced, the offer now values Disney shares at less than what they are trading for. A source close to the board told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Timesthat the decision to reject the Comcast offer was "a no brainer." Comcast is expected to sweeten its offer prior to Disney's annual shareholders meeting scheduled for March 3 in Philadelphia.


A group of former Disney animators who formed their own company after Disney shut down its animation studios in Orlando, FL have indicated that the company has abandoned classic hand-drawn animation. Eddie Pittman, who has worked on numerous Disney animated features over the past 20 years, said in an interview with Voice of America, "Even the great traditional animators such as Nick Ranieri and Glen Keane and Mark Henn are all learning how to animate on the computer animation platform. And from the best of my knowledge there's no desire at this point to go back to hand-drawn animation." Last month, Pittman and his colleagues formed Legacy Animation Studios aimed at preserving the legacy of traditional Disney-style animation.


A U.S. study indicating that smoking scenes in today's movies are now slightly more numerous than those in the 1950s has touched off an uproar in Britain, where restrictions on cigarette advertising are in many ways stricter than they are in the U.S. The study, conducted by the University of California at Berkeley and published by the Journal of American Public Health, showed that while the number of "tobacco incidents" in films dropped to 4.9 per hour in the 1980s, they had risen to 10.9 in 2001/2002. Amanda Sandford of the British anti-smoking group ASH told the London Independent, "If smoking in films is returning to levels in the 1950s then it is shocking. ... We now have a tobacco advertising ban in Britain, and Hollywood movies should not be seen as a loophole through which to promote smoking."


Appearing to support arguments that government censorship encourages DVD piracy, especially in Asian countries, Chinese censors reportedly have removed love scenes from Cold Mountainin advance of its release on the Mainland. The State Administration for Broadcasting, Movie and Television Administration, China's primary censorship board, said that the love scenes between Jude Law and Nicole Kidman were "not in accord with national conditions, not in accord with Chinese tradition and not in accord with Chinese customs."