FOX BRAKES TO A WIN Fox recorded a rare win Saturday night as its coverage of the Nextel Cup's Pepsi 400, won by Jeff Gordon, trounced the other networks' reruns of movies (The Patrioton CBS, The General's Daughteron NBC, and The Legend of Bagger Vance on ABC). Rarely a big night for ratings, Saturday, coming this year during the Independence Day holiday weekend, produced dismal numbers for all the networks, with Fox being able to come out on top with an average 4.3 rating and a 10 share, (numbers that were lower than those for any NASCAR race night since Fox began televising the sport in 2001). NBC and CBS tied for second place with a 3.3/7, followed by ABC with a 2.9/6.


Chrysler has balked at the $50-million asking price for a package of ads on the second season of NBC's The Apprentice and has pulled out of the show, Advertising Age reported today (Monday). The trade publication observed that other automakers were approached to succeed Chrysler but that none assented because of the high asking price. Chrysler declined to comment on its reasons for pulling out of The Apprentice but told Ad Age that it plans to increase its ad spending in 2004 over last year.


BBC Director-General Mark Thompson is considering selling off the corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, which operates commercial cable and satellite channels throughout the world (including BBC America) and sells books, DVDs, and other merchandise related to BBC programming. Published reports indicated that the division could fetch more than $1.8 billion.


Al-Jazeera, the Arabic all-news channel that receives funding from the government of Qatar, plans to go private and list itself on the Doha Stock Exchange within two years, the German business daily Handelsblattreported today (Monday). U.S. officials have denounced the channel for taking what they maintain is an anti-American stance in its reports about this country's Middle East policies and recently launched a pro-American news channel, al-Hurra, to compete. That channel has reportedly not attracted a significant audience.


Email messages written by a top BBC news manager complaining about errors in BBC news reports have been leaked to the London Sunday Telegraph, which reported that they "reveal that the credibility of the news service is 'on the line' because of a climate of sloppiness." The email messages by Hugh Berlyn, an assistant editor of BBC News Online, complained that news reports by BBC correspondents were not being "properly checked by a second pair of eyes" before being broadcast or published online. A BBC spokesman told the Sunday Telegraph that since the emails were written (apparently during a period between October, 2003 and February, 2004), "tighter procedures for checking copy have been put in place."WHO WON -- FIREWORKS OR SPIDEY? Sony declined to release estimates for Spider-Man 2 on Sunday, saying that it would do so today (Monday), given the long Independence Day holiday. The Associated Press, however, said that other studios estimated that the movie earned about $90 million for the three-day weekend after pulling in about $64 million on Wednesday and Thursday. That would shatter the record of $129 million for a Wednesday-Sunday opening set by Shrek 2just two months ago. The A.P. observed, however, that estimates for the Fourth of July are difficult to make and quoted Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian as saying, "People are very distracted on the Fourth. Usually it's barbecues and fireworks, not movies." Meanwhile, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11continued to perform strongly, earning $17 million on Friday and Saturday alone as it doubled its theater count to 1,725. It appeared likely that the film would wind up earning more during its second weekend than it did during its first, when it recorded $23.9 million.


Michael Moore and his Fahrenheit 9/11have landed on the cover of Timemagazine, and in the accompanying cover article, the magazine observes that if the movie becomes a "decisive influence" in the coming presidential election, "we may come to look back on its hugely successful first week the way we now think of the televised presidential debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, as a moment when we grasped for the first time the potential of a mass medium -- in this case, movies -- to affect American politics in new ways. If that's the case, expect the next generation of campaign strategists to precede every major election not only with the traditional TV ad buys but also with a scheme for the rollout of some thermonuclear book, movie, CD or even video game, all designed to tilt the political balance just in time." Meanwhile, R.L. Fridley, owner of a theater chain bearing his name in Iowa and Nebraska, announced Saturday that his theaters will not show Moore's film. "Our country is in a war against an enemy who would destroy our way of life, our culture and kill our people," Fridley said in a message to company managers. "These barbarians have shown ... that they will stop at nothing. I believe this film emboldens them and divides our country even more."


Jeffrey Katzenberg has told a British newspaper that during the entire ten years that DreamWorks, the studio he formed with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, has been in existence, "I've never taken a dollar." In fact, he maintained in an interview with the London Sunday Observer, neither has either of his two partners. Katzenberg, who reportedly received a $250-million settlement following his lawsuit against Disney, which fired him in 1994, told the newspaper: "Me, Stephen and David, we've never taken a dollar. We're self-supporting, blessed in that we'd all done well enough before we started to not need to do this for the money. If somebody tells me they love my film and starts quoting their favorite lines from it to me and their face lights up, that's my gold in the bank right there."


The descendants of Solomon Linda have sued the Walt Disney Co. for $1.6 million, claiming that the company violated their father's (and grandfather's) copyright when they featured his song, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," in The Lion King. News reports indicated that Linda, a Zulu migrant worker and musician, sold the worldwide copyright in 1939 but that under British law in effect in South Africa at the time, the rights should have reverted to his heirs 25 years after his death. Linda died in 1962. Disney declined comment on the suit.


Syndicated columnist Liz Smith is calling attention to the little-reported decision by the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled against the German government last week for not banning pictures showing Princess Caroline of Monaco shopping and vacationing. The court ruled that the pictures "breached her right to respect for her private life," dismissing the German government's assertion that people have a legitimate right to know about the behavior or public figures when they appear in public. Comments Smith: "Yikes! What this augurs for British and even for U.S. publications is unknown."


In the wake of the death of Marlon Brando, last week, L. Robert Morris, co-author of Lawrence of Arabia: The 30th Anniversary Pictorial History,recalled in an email message on Friday the little-known fact that producer Sam Spiegel originally announced that Brando would play the title role in the epic movie. "In a way, they [Brando and Lawrence] are very much alike," Spiegel said at the time. "Both have that mystic, tortured quality of doubting their own destiny. ... There is practically nobody else of international magnitude who could play the part." In the end, however, amid reports of problems and shooting delays on the set of Brando's Mutiny on the Bounty,said to have been created in part by the actor's "difficult" behavior, Brando was replaced by the relatively unknown (at the time) Peter O'Toole. Director David Lean, Morris wrote, had also come to the conclusion "that Lawrence would have become Brando of Arabia."