GIBSON TRAVELS INTO CONTROVERSYOnly days after signing on as the new permanent anchor of ABC's World News Tonight, Charles Gibson was under fire for remarks made in New Yorkmagazine that seemed to suggest that there was little point in covering issues affecting Africa. Referring to the fact that NBC's Brian Williams had recently reported from several African countries for Nightly News, Gibson commented, "I don't know why you do that. Why the hell do you go to Africa? It's certainly an interesting choice. We'll do travel, when it warrants." In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Gibson called his remarks "a jesting reference" to an email he had written to Nightly Newsproducer John Reiss, a friend, and indicated he probably should never have made it. He then added, "It is certainly worth traveling there. There are certainly problems to explore and issues to do. But I was curious as to why they would send Brian with Bono for a number of days for that program." (The network also recently sent Datelineco-host Ann Curry to Africa to interview Angelina Jolie.) Later, Gibson called in to Chicago radio station WVON, which targets a predominantly black audience, and, referring to Joe Hagan, the writer of the article, remarked: "This guy, who I will never talk to again from New York magazine who is something of a snake, he took my quote and I think perverted the meaning of it to indicate in some way that I was insensitive to news from one of the five major continents in the world."


NBC's Dateline, which had claimed in a series of reports about online sex predators that at any given time 50,000 predators are lurking on the Internet, has now indicated that it cannot support that figure. Interviewed on National Public Radio's On the Media, Datelinecorrespondent Chris Hansen, who fronted a series of hour-long Datelinefeatures titled "To Catch a Predator," said, "We used [the 50,000 figure] in the first two stories, and we haven't used it in the last three." Today's (Friday) New York Postobserved that the figure was cited last month by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who attributed it to Dateline. The NBC series, a ratings success, has touched off considerable controversy for hiring a private group to pose as sexually active teenagers online and lure their marks to a private home where they are confronted by Hansen on camera and are then arrested as they leave.


NBC's game show Deal or No Deal has not only helped lift the network's sagging ratings, it has also drawn a huge number of visitors to its website, making it the most visited website operated by any of the major networks. According to data compiled by Hitwise Search Intelligence, accounted for 43.45 percent to total visits to the four major networks' websites, with 30 percent of the traffic heading toward the game show. was in second place with 27 percent of visits, followed by with 21 percent and Fox with 9 percent. (Hitwise observed that Fox might have scored higher except for the fact that its No. 1 hit, American Idol, operates its own website.)


A new study indicates that with the growing use of product placements, along with promos and public-service announcements, marketing messages now account for 35 percent of every hour in primetime, increasing to 40 percent in reality or unscripted programs. The study by TNS Media Intelligence, reported in MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews, said that the average hour of primetime includes 17 minutes and 31 seconds of commercials and 3 minutes and 22 seconds of product integrations, while unscripted programs include 18 minutes and 6 seconds of commercials plus 7 minutes and 39 seconds of product integrations. In late-night variety shows, the combination of commercials and product placements accounted for 31 minutes and 27 seconds per hour of programming.


When it comes to TV pilots, runaway production has accelerated at a tremendous clip over the past year, according to figures released Thursday by FilmL.A., the nonprofit corporation that handles film permits for Los Angeles. A study that it released today (Friday) shows that the number of TV pilots shot in the Los Angeles area so far this year is 23 percent lower than during the comparable period last year. It blamed the exodus on "aggressive [tax] incentives from other jurisdictions." In all, it noted, 39 of this year's 120 pilots were produce outside of Los Angeles.


Fox News Business Channel could launch as early as this month, Advertising Agereported on its website today (Friday) citing unnamed insiders. The trade publication said that Fox has already made deals with several cable operators to carry the channel and is currently working on a crucial deal with Time Warner Cable, which controls the New York-Manhattan market.


The 24-hour BBC World News Channel was launched in the U.S. on Thursday with plans to produce a one-hour morning newscast at 7:00 a.m. each day targeting American viewers. The channel is currently in negotiations with numerous carriers but has succeeded so far in landing a deal only with Cablevision, which operates in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area, and which reaches two million subscribers.


BBC News has interjected itself into the latest controversy over whether American troops in Iraq are deliberately killing innocent civilians by airing video that appears to confirm that U.S. troops deliberately killed 11 innocent civilians, including five small children and four women in the town of Ishaqi in March. The BBC, which said that it had received the video from "a hardline Sunni group opposed to coalition forces," reported that at the time or the incident Iraqi police had accused U.S. troops of deliberately shooting the 11 civilians. It said that the matter is now being investigated by the Pentagon. At the time, it observed, the U.S. said that four people had died during the operation when the wall of a building fell on them. The video aired on the same day that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki denounced what he called "habitual attacks" by U.S. troops against Iraqi civilians and demanded that American officials turn over their files on the reported killings of 24 Iraqis in Haditha last year.VAUGHNISTON VS. THE X-MENThis weekend will reveal how well a romantic comedy targeting mostly women will do against the second week of a superhero movie targeting mostly men. No one expects the Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn starrer The Break-Upto X-Men: The Last Standfrom its standing in first place; the question is, can it perform adequately at all? Analysts are predicting that it should earn a modest $25-30 million over the weekend. Much depends, they say, on whether the presence of Vince Vaughn on the marquee will attract males. However, some audience tracking indicates that young males have been making repeat visits to the theater this week to see X-Men and that they're likely to do more of it over the weekend.


The Break-Upcan hardly catch a break from the critics. Most do find some parts of the movie entertaining and witty, but few think it's worth the price of admission. Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mailbegins his review of the movie this way: "Why one hand wants to clap: Because it's nice when a Hollywood movie boldly departs from the Hollywood formula. Why the other hand doesn't: Because it's a whole lot nicer when the departure works." Desson Thomson in the Washington Postwrites similarly that the movie "may have its share of laughs, but isn't much fun." Several critics try to put their finger on the cause of the problem. "What the movie lacks is warmth, optimism and insight into human nature," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.A.O. Scott in the New York Timeshas a different take: "In defying some of the rigid conventions of its genre, it shows some admirable pluck and wit, but these would be more appreciated if the principal characters were worth caring about or if we could believe for a moment that they cared for each other," he writes. Lou Lumenick in the New York Posthas yet another explanation: "They may be famously sleeping together in real life, but Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn demonstrate zero on-screen chemistry in The Break-Up."


After packing 'em in in a handful of theaters last weekend, the Al Gore global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth spreads out into many other major markets today and is being welcomed with some loud applause from critics who wear their liberal credentials on their sleeves. One of them is Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who bestows four stars on the movie. He writes: "When I said I was going to a press screening of An Inconvenient Truth, a friend said, 'Al Gore talking about the environment!!' This is not a boring film. The director, Davis Guggenheim, uses words, images and Gore's concise litany of facts to build a film that is fascinating and relentless. In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to." At the opposite extreme, Kyle Smith writes in the New York Post, "[Gore] and his friends were in charge for eight years. His charts say global warming got worse in that time. The environment doesn't seem to care whether the president is a Texas oilman or the Man from Hope. Global warming hasn't noticed that we got the lead out of our gasoline or that Stage One smog days in Los Angeles fell from 121 in 1977 to zero in 2004. All regulations and taxes to date have done nothing. Does this hint that pollution isn't the cause? ... People are skeptical about global warming because it builds up to the same chorus as every other lefty hymn: more taxes, more hypocritical scolding ... and especially more America-bashing."


Daily Variety said today (Friday) that it will hire its own photographers to cover such entertainment events as premieres, award shows, concerts and theater openings instead of licensing photos from news agencies. "For the first time in its 100-year history, Variety is creating a photo division," the trade publication announced, noting that before 1987 it was rare for it to run any photographs at all. It said that it had appointed Bruce Brosnan, its art director, to head the photo division.