CBS GETS TOUGH WITH BALKY ACTORS CBS Television chief Les Moonves defended his decision to fire two CSIstars Sunday, telling TV critics meeting in Los Angeles: "There comes a point where we feel a contract is a contract. We all have to look out for the future of the network television business." George Eads and Jorja Fox were axed after failing to show up for work following a salary dispute. They had reportedly been earning $100,000 per episode. "I believe when you and I shake hands and we sign a deal, it's a deal. By the way, what has not been reported is that we did offer them a raise, even though we didn't have to," Moonves said. He indicated that production had been put on hold while revisions in the script were made to eliminate the characters played by Fox and Eads. The actors have not yet publicly responded to the network's action. On a different subject, Moonves told the TV writers that CBS plans to fight any fines that the FCC might level against it for the Janet Jackson breast-baring incident. "We're not going to stand for it," Moonves said. "We're going to take that to the courts if it happens."


Most people use digital video recorders (DVRs) like TiVo not to watch TV shows at different times but to start watching them several minutes after they have begun so that they can skip commercials, according to a survey conducted by Lyra Research. The survey of more than 600 DVR users found that the average viewer delays watching programs in this way 43 percent of the time. In a statement, Steve Hoffenberg, Lyra Research's director of electronic media research, said: "As opposed to recording with DVRs for time-shifting, this behavior is clearly oriented to time-saving, with commercials constituting the expendable time. ... Not only did the respondents intend to skip ads before they even began watching the programs, the desire to skip ads impacted when they began watching. This has important implications for the TV-advertising industry beyond the ad-avoidance issues usually raised in discussions of DVR users' behavior. These people are effectively telling advertisers, 'Don't waste my time.'"


Female and minority directors continue to be shunned by producers of primetime television shows despite the networks' pledge to encourage diversity, a report by he Directors Guild of America said today. The report shows that 86 percent of primetime episodes were directed by white males. It said that during the 2003-2004 season, 15 of the top forty shows did not hire women directors; 10 did not hire minority directors; and six excluded both women and minority directors. (The six were Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Navy NCIS, Becker, Less Than Perfect, and Malcolm in the Middle.) On the other hand, women and minorities directed 8 out of 21 episodes of CBS's Cold Caseand 8 out of 23 episodes of ABC's The Practice.


The major networks have agreed to demands by an organization of affiliates that local stations be allowed to preempt network shows, USA Todayreported today (Monday).


The decision by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) last week to allow al-Jazeera to air in Canada on condition that it be monitored for "abusive comment" was denounced Sunday by the director of the critically acclaimed documentary Control Room., about the Arab all-news network. Jenhane Noujaim told today's (Monday) Toronto Globe and Mailthat censoring the channel "in any way is just the worst message you could give the Arab world about the modus operandi coming from the West." Responding to allegations that al-Jazeera is a mouthpiece for Arab terrorists, Noujaim remarked: "It broadcasts for an Arabic-speaking audience so they're going to concentrate on issues that have interest for the Arab world. They're going to focus on Palestinians and Israelis, on Iraq and Afghanistan. There is always a pandering to the audience, depending on who your core viewership is."


The chief executive of Britain's ITV is considering giving up its analog license and switching entirely to digital TV, the British trade publication Brand Republicreported today (Monday). Although fewer than half the British population currently owns settop converter boxes to enable them to watch digital stations, that shortcoming could be offset by annual savings of some $375 million that ITV is required to pay for its analog license and the freeing-up of some $475 million per year that it is required to spend for public service broadcasts. Brand Republicreported that CEO Charles Allen has told the TV regulator Ofcom that it will not be economic for ITV to remain an analog broadcaster.ROBOTS SMASH THE BOX OFFICEI, Robotturned out to be as popular as iPod over the weekend, as the Will Smith sci-fi movie earned an estimated $52.3 million in its debut. If the official count due out later today (Monday) confirms the figure, it would mark Smith's best opening weekend, slightly surpassing the $52.1 million earned by Men in Black IIlast year. The film pushed Spider-Man 2,with $24.2 million, to second place. (Spidey vaulted the $300-million mark on Sunday.) Hillary Duff's "tween" movie, A Cinderella Story, opened in third place with $13.8 million. Dropping to fourth was last week's runner-up, the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman, which was down 53 percent to $13.4 million. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 continued to draw big crowds in its fourth week, earning $7 million, to bring its gross to $93.8 million. But Disney's hopes that an older audience might prop up its King Arthur were dashed when the film drew just $6.9 million, down 54 percent from last week. (Disney's next chance to pull out of its long-lasting tailspin comes on July 30 with M. Night Shyamalan's scary movie The Village.) The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:1. I, Robot, $52.25 million; 2. Spider-Man 2,$24.2 million; 3. A Cinderella Story, $13.8 million; 4. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, $13.4 million; 5.Fahrenheit 9/11, $7 million; 6. King Arthur, $6.9 million; 7. The Notebook, $5.45 million; 8. White Chicks, $3.4 million; 9.DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, $3.2 million; 10.The Terminal, $3.1 million.


Reports that the Sci Fi Channel and director M. Night Shyamalan were fighting over a documentary that it planned to broadcast containing a "buried secret" about his past was all part of a "guerrilla marketing campaign" that was essentially a hoax, the channel admitted on Friday. The documentary was made in connection with the July 30 release of the director's latest film, The Village,for Disney. Reports last week said that the documentary included a "disturbing exposé" about the director's past. However, the channel has admitted that Shyamalan had actually been involved with the production of the special. A spokesman for NBC, which took over the channel following its acquisition of Vivendi Universal's TV holdings, said on Friday, "This marketing strategy is not consistent with out policy at NBC."


A film version of Elizabeth Wurtzel's best-selling Prozac Nation starring Christina Ricca that was acquired by Miramax three years ago is still sitting on the studio's shelves after numerous postponements, with little chance that it will ever be released, according to the London Sunday Observer. Larry Gross, the original screenwriter on the film, told the newspaper that its controversial nature -- it was praised and damned when it was shown at the Toronto Film Festival in 2001 -- may be responsible for its landing in limbo. "[Miramax Co-chairman] Harvey [Weinstein] might buy an obscure Japanese film and release it, knowing there's a chance it won't work, because no one will pay it the kind of attention that will rebound against him," said Gross. "Prozac Nation is in the backyard of the people who look at what he does for a living. So any failure to put it over will be looked at very carefully. And that's a reason not to distribute it."


Directors, producers, writers and actors keep coming and going for the next Superman sequel, with Brian Singer (The X-Men, X-2) coming on board to direct what Daily Varietytoday (Monday) today described as "the long-gestating new pic in Warner's star-crossed franchise." Last week director McG dropped out of the project, after insisting that the film be shot in the U.S. rather than in Australia, where Warner Bros. insists it must be produced in order to keep a lid on costs. Only last month, the studio signed Neal Moritz and Gilbert Adler to producer, but Varietyreported that they, too, have "disappeared from the scene."


The music group EMI has agreed to invest $5 million in Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Entertainment and to form a joint venture, along with Hong Kong's Abba Movies, to help finance Chinese language films, the London Financial Timesreported today (Monday). The newspaper indicated that EMI is likely motivated by China's recent decision to allow additional Chinese language films produced in Hong Kong to be shown on the mainland.