AP TO BOYCOTT FOX'S FALL PRESENTATIONS
In an unprecedented clash between two media organizations, the Associated Press has informed Fox television that it will not cover its press tour events in Pasadena next week, including the presentation by the network's cable sibling, FX. As reported by Broadcasting & Cable, the wire service had objected to Fox's decision to bar news organizations from taking photographs during the sessions and instead use photos provided by Fox itself. David Ake, the wire service's deputy director of photography, said, "Fox wants to make sure the images from their publicity event are flattering to the network by controlling the content and distribution of the pictures. ... The problem for the AP is that, just as we wouldn't let Fox write our stories, we can't have them shooting our pictures."
MYSPACE BANS POLITICAL PARODY
The social networking website MySpace recently acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has removed a parody of Sen. Ted Stevens' obtuse description of the Internet as "not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes." (In the same remarks, the senator complained, "An internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday.") The parody had been posted on the TedStevensFanClub blog by Andrew Raff, a law-school graduate, who is also a member of a Brooklyn-based rock band called The Bosch. According to Wired magazine's online edition, the ditty had been heard by about 2,500 people before MySpace pulled the plug on it, telling Raff that it had received a "credible complaint of your violation of the MySpace Terms of Services." Stevens is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and is regarded as the Senate's most powerful figure affecting broadcasting regulation. Raff, in an email to Wired, maintained that he was not upset about MySpace removing his song -- "just curious as to why." Raff's song got additional exposure on Comedy Central's The Daily Show Wednesday night when Jon Stewart put it on the air, complete with a visual description of how the Internet "tubes" supposedly work.
FOX REPORTER IN GAZA COMES UNDER ATTACK -- LIVE
David Lee Miller, a reporter for Fox News Channel, came under fire while on the air live via a videophone from Gaza Thursday. Wearing a flak jacket with the word "PRESS" stenciled on it, Miller was describing a deserted town (a "ghost town," he called it) when he remarked, "Whoa, we're being fired at!" A moment later, he said that he and his cameraman had retreated behind their armored van-- even as additional shots were being fired. Throughout, Miller appeared calm, even as studio anchors seemed panicky, urging him to get out of the area. The videophone continued to operate inside the van as Miller speculated that Israeli forces had been doing the shooting "to scare us," noting that TV cameras often look like weapons to soldiers in the distance. Meanwhile, NBC's Richard Engel, stationed in Baghdad, flew to Amman, Jordan, then drove across the country and into Syria to get to Lebanon in order to report from Beirut on the latest Middle East hostilities.
JOURNALIST GROUPS CONDEMN ISRAELI ATTACK ON LEBANON TV STATIONS
Two international journalists' organizations, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans Frontières) and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have condemned Israel's attacks Wednesday on television stations operated in Lebanon by the al-Manar television network. Al-Manar had been the first to report on the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the demand by Hezbollah terrorists that Israeli release Arab prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for the two captured men. Following the attacks on its stations by Israeli missiles, al-Manar called for international organizations to "protect the freedom of journalism." Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks on civilian targets. The Israeli foreign ministry responded that the "station has for many years served as the main tool for propaganda and incitement by Hezbollah and has also helped the organization recruit people into its ranks." But the Committee to Protect Journalists commented: "While al-Manar may serve a propaganda function for Hezbollah, it does not appear ... to be serving any discernible military function."
COURIC FORECASTS CHANGES FOR CBS EVENING NEWS
Katie Couric has suggested that The CBS Evening News may be refashioned by the Internet, allowing people to watch lengthier reports about subjects covered during the broadcast and/or to watch the entire broadcast on demand. Couric met with reporters in Denver along with the nightly newscast's producer, Rome Hartman, who said that he and other members of the CBS Evening News team were trying to figure out "new ways to deliver what we do to people so they can get it when they [want] it, because what we've heard from a lot of people is, 'It's hard. I'm not home. I'd love to watch it, but find me a way to do that.'"
SALE OF ADELPHIA FINALLY APPROVED
By a 4-1 vote, the FCC on Thursday approved the acquisition of Adelphia Communications by Time Warner Cable and Comcast. In one fell swoop, the deal would give Time Warner 98 percent of the metropolitan Los Angeles market, the second-largest in the nation after New York City. It had previously served only 15 percent of the market. The deal would also allow Comcast and Time Warner to swap some other existing operations in order to consolidate operations in several areas. The FCC imposed several conditions -- including one that calls for binding arbitration if either cable companies rejects an independent cable network and another that prohibits them from refusing to sell regional sports channels to rivals, like home satellite providers. The lone dissenter Thursday was Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who said, "This decision is about big media getting bigger, with consumers left holding the bag."
COMEDIAN RED BUTTON DIES AT 87
Veteran comedian Red Buttons, whose career began in the "Borscht Belt" circuit of Catskill resorts catering to Jewish families in the 1930s, then moved on to television, motion pictures, and Friars Club roasts, died Thursday at age 87 of vascular disease. He received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1957 for a dramatic role in Sayonara, which starred Marlon Brando. In the early '50s, he starred on CBS on The Red Buttons Show. "Strange things are happening!" -- a line from a kind of "theme" that he performed weekly on the show -- became a national catch-phrase.
PIRATES TO REMAIN E-TICKET FARE
Pity the two newcomers as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is expected to continue to seize box-office treasure over the weekend. You, Me and Dupree, starring Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon, and Little Man, starring Marlon and Shawn Wayans are each expected to earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million apiece, while Pirates, according to analysts, is likely to add another $60-70 million to its booty, with many moviegoers who flocked to theaters last week to see the Johnny Depp sequel returning for a second ride. If it does, it would -- in a single ten-day period -- become the highest-grossing film of the year, exceeding the $231.7 million earned during the entire run of X-Men: The Last Stand.. The record for a second weekend was set by Shrek 2, which earned $72.2 million in 2004.
MOVIE REVIEWS: YOU, ME AND DUPREE
Critics seem to agree that Owen Wilson plays what the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea describes as "a pop-eyed, lovably obnoxious bachelor oaf" and "a spirited slacker" well. The problem is, most of them suggest, You, Me and Dupree is not much of a showcase for his talent. Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post calls it "formulaic, shockingly sloppy and virtually laugh-free." Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sun remarks, "This is a comedy ever holding itself in check, filled with plot threads and asides that seem as though they should be funny but almost always fall short of the mark." ABC's Joel Siegel, who calls Wilson "one of the funniest people making movies today," says of the film: "The situations in this sitcom never get as funny as they should. A scene about a backed-up toilet has the worst punch lines I've ever heard in any work anyone has gotten paid for. Period. And the screenplay is almost never believable."
MOVIE REVIEWS: LITTLE MAN
The Wayans Brothers are adept at making money with their low-brow comedies even as critics sneer. In Little Man, Marlon Wayans's face is superimposed on the body of a little person whose character poses as a baby in order to retrieve a stolen diamond from a couple. Several critics remark that the film probably sets a record for scenes in which a man is kicked in the genitals (eight). Indeed, Geoff Pevere in the Toronto Star concludes his review by remarking, "Unless you're of the temperament that derives boundless pleasure from the serial assault on the genitals of large people by a cut-and-paste little person, Little Man will likely prove about as bearable as diaper rash. On this baby, more than the diaper stinks." It's a metaphor that several other critics employ. Writes Lou Lumenick in the New York Post: "Sexual and toilet humor plumb new depths in Keenen Ivory Wayans' Little Man, which will stink up theaters like several gross of dirty diapers." On the other hand, Scott Bowles in USA Today writes, "Almost in spite of itself, Little Man manages to deliver big laughs. It's not enough to make it a consistently funny movie, but this one-trick pony from the Wayans brothers has flashes of humor and sincerity that almost save it from its disastrous ending."
DISNEY TICKET SALES RISE; STOCKS FALL
Executives of the Walt Disney Co. were continuing to ride an emotional roller-coaster Thursday. While Pirates of the Caribbean continued to set new highs at the box office, accompanied by solid mid-week results for Cars, shares in the company suffered their biggest drop in more than three years. Disney stock fell 4.1 percent to $28.70 on the NYSE after CIBC World Markets analyst Jason Helfstein cut Disney's rating to "sector underperformer." By midday trading today (Friday), they had dropped below $28.00. Bloomberg reported that analysts are divided on Disney, with an equal number of "buys" and "holds" and two "sells." Earlier this week, Daily Variety and the Los Angeles Times reported that Disney was expected to engage in extensive cost-cutting, slashing hundreds of jobs and cutting its number of movie releases to eight from its usual average of 18.
TARGET DROPPING UMD MOVIES
Target department stores removed movies in the UMD format from its shelves last week, several websites that track home-video releases reported Thursday. UMD cartridges can only be played in Sony's PlayStation Portable devices. In recent weeks, there have been reports that the cartridges have found few buyers. Some websites have suggested that Wal-Mart, the nation's largest home-video retailer, may be the next to clear out its UMD supply.
NEW STUDIO WILL GIVE BLACK EXECS "GREEN-LIGHT POWER"
BET founder Robert L. Johnson confirmed Thursday that he is forming an independent film studio -- to be called Our Stories Films -- with Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The company plans to produce family films about African Americans that will be distributed by the Weinstein Co.'s Dimension Films. Funding for the company will come from J.P. Moran Chase. In an interview with the Washington Post, Johnson said, "For a long time I've wondered why there was no major movie studio where African Americans had the green-light authority to make broadly distributed films. The two answers I came up with was black filmmakers have historically had no access to the capital to do it, and there was no one with the business and management capability to make it a going concern. I think we have the answer to both in Our Stories."