PLAIN AMISH CAPTURES VIEWERS' FANCY
The controversial reality series Amish in the City produced some of the strongest ratings ever for the struggling UPN network Wednesday as the debut telecast landed in third place in its first hour at 8:00 p.m. with a 3.4 rating and a 6 share. (It dropped to fourth place in its second hour.) The show pushed the network to No. 2 for the night in the 18-49-year-old demo as it averaged a 2.4. In fact, the new series attracted more total viewers than any of the "Big 3" networks drew to their coverage of the Democratic convention at 10:00 p.m.

ABC SAYS ITS DIGITAL CONVENTION COVERAGE IS DRAWING VIEWERS

ABC claimed on Wednesday that its digital ABC News Now coverage of the Democratic convention drew 210,000 users on AOL on Monday and 250,000 on Tuesday, representing AOL's biggest live streaming webcast ever. It was not immediately clear whether the figures represented unique -- i.e. individual -- users or whether they denoted the number of accesses. Meanwhile, PBS indicated that its coverage has benefited from the limited attention the commercial networks are devoting to the convention. On Tuesday, when the networks shut down coverage of the convention entirely, PBS drew an estimated 3 million viewers for its coverage, 26 percent above what it drew on Monday. "The networks came here with a premise, that an audience is not going to watch convention coverage," Rob Lynn, a spokesman for The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer told today's (Thursday) New York Times. "We came with a different mind set, that if we provided good coverage with good context, people were going to go for it. And we've been attracting people in droves."

FCC TO HOLD HEARINGS ON TV VIOLENCE

Presumably spurred by Democratic commissioner Michael Copps, the FCC has begun soliciting public comment on TV violence and whether it should be further regulated. Copps has for years criticized broadcasters for their output of violent programs and has cited studies indicating that they may contribute substantially to violent crime. The FCC also wants to know whether parents are checking the ratings of TV shows and using the V-chip to prevent their kids from viewing objectionable broadcasts.

CABLE NETS LOSING SUBSCRIBERS TO SATELLITE

Time Warner, the country's largest cable-TV operator, and Comcast Corporation, the third-largest, each reported a significant erosion of their subscriber base for the second quarter. Comcast said that it lost about 96,000 subscribers; Time Warner said it lost 21,000 subscribers. Analysts attributed the declines to strong competition from satellite companies DirecTV and Echostar's DISH Network. Nevertheless, both cable companies reported increased operating income for the period.

HDTV IS BEGINNING TO CATCH ON, SAYS STUDY

A study by the Yankee Group has concluded that high-definition television is finally beginning to catch on and that by 2008, 60 million homes will be able to receive HDTV. The study observed that sales of HDTV sets rose 66 percent in 2003 over the previous year and that 78 percent of consumers now are aware of HDTV and 20 percent say they intend to purchase a set.

SUPERNANNY COMING TO U.S.; SO'S HER CLONE

The British reality hit Supernanny, in which kids' disciplinarian Jo Frost acts as a stern Mary Poppins in order to manage unruly kids, has been picked up by ABC, which plans to mount a U.S. version. Fox, which has been accused of ripping off other networks' reality shows, quickly announced that it plans to air a similar series titled Nanny 911.

FAMED ANNOUNCER JACKSON BECK DEAD AT 92

Jackson Beck, who could boast of one of the longest-running voice-over careers in broadcasting, has died at the age of 92. In radio's "golden age," he was perphas best known as the announcer for Superman ("Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.") He was also the announcer for hundreds of commercial products and was the voice-over announcer in Woody Allen's movie, Radio Days.

MARINES PROBE FAHRENHEIT SOLDIER
The Marine reservist who told Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11 that he would not fight again in Iraq and accompanied Moore as the filmmaker attempted to persuade members of Congress to have their kids join up to fight, is being investigated by the Marine Corps, USA Today reported today (Thursday). According to the newspaper, the Corps is conducting a preliminary inquiry into Lance Cpl. Abdul Henderson's appearance in the film. A spokesman for the Marines, Patrick Kerr, commented: "He made it very clear that he would not follow orders. ... We're trying to determine what, if anything, he said or did was wrong." Asked what would befall Henderson if he failed to report for a second tour of duty in Iraq, Kerr replied, "Technically, he'd be a deserter." Henderson told the newspaper that so far, he has heard nothing from his superiors. "I expect trouble, but who knows?" he said. "They never told us not to give our opinions of how we felt." Meanwhile, Fahrenheit continued to perform strongly during mid-week. It has now earned more than $106 million at the domestic box office.

GOP ASKS MIRAMAX TO DISTRIBUTE ANTI-KERRY FLICK

The Republican National Committee has asked Miramax to distribute a short documentary, which it described as a compilation of clips of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry contradicting himself. RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie told a news conference Wednesday: "I reached out yesterday to Miramax, and we have sent them a copy of it and asked them if they would considering distributing this documentary across the country." A Miramax spokesman confirmed to the New York Daily News that he had spoken with Gillespie, but added: "We don't do short films."

SOUTH PARK VIDEO TIMED TO BE RELEASED WITH PASSION

Paramount Home Entertainment plans to release the DVD version South Park: The Passion of the Jew on Aug. 31, the same day that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is scheduled to release the home video version of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The South Park disc will also include two other religious episodes: "Christian Rock Hard" and "Red Hot Catholic Love." A slew of additional religious movies are also due to hit the home-video market around the same time, including Paramount's Judas, on Aug. 24, Koch Entertainment's The Power and the Passion of Christ on Aug. 10, the BBC documentary Jesus: The Complete Story on Aug. 31, and the 1966 movie The Bible ... In the Beginning on Aug. 31 and "NBC News Presents: The Last Days of Jesus, also on Aug. 31.

NBC LOOKING AT THEATRICAL DOCUMENTARIES

Deadline , a documentary film about capital punishment that captured the attention of NBC Universal Chairman and CEO Robert Wright at the Sundance Film Festival this year, will be shown in its entirety on a two-hour Dateline NBC telecast on Friday. Reporting on the planned showing, today's (Thursday) New York Times observed: "It is rare for a broadcast network like NBC to buy a documentary and present it in its entirety, because these networks have news units themselves." Last week, ABC's Primetime was devoted to another documentary, The Staircase, from Maha Productions, which presented behind-the-scenes coverage of the trial of wife killer Michael Peterson -- particularly striking since the trial itself was covered by Dateline in February. In an interview with the Times, Dateline executive director David Corvo commented that the Deadline film "comes in an era where documentaries are blossoming like never before. ... We'll be back at Sundance next year."