TILLMAN DEATH DIVIDES MILITARY, MEDIA
A report that the Army has agreed to open a new investigation into the death of former NFL star Pat Tillman in Afghanistan in 2002 has touched off new charges that the military has been manipulating information about the Middle East conflict in order to stir up patriotic fervor at home. In an interview with the CBS blog Public Eye, Dan Goure, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, remarked, "The relationship [between the military and the news media] has really gone to hell. There is a strongly held perception in the military -- particularly the Army -- that the media is doing the enemy's work. You guys are seen as the Jane Fondas of the Iraq war. And so the military['s] attitude is, 'Why should we level with you, because you're going to screw us.'" In the case of Tillman, the Army first announced that he had died a hero as he was cut down by Taliban fire during an operation in Afghanistan. But months later, after Tillman's family prodded the Pentagon for further information about his death, the Army announced that he had been the victim of "friendly fire." At the same time, reporters soon began noticing discrepancies in the military's accounts of the tragedy, and some press accounts questioned whether the military may have consciously fabricated the original story about his death. In an interview with liberal commentator Robert Sheer, Tillman's mother said Wednesday, "The administration used Pat. ... They tried to attach themselves to his virtue and then they wiped their feet with him." In a separate interview with today's Arizona Republic, she added, "Pat has a right and we have the right to know the truth. If they are lying about Pat, then they are lying about other soldiers." CBS News's national security correspondent David Martin commented Wednesday that he now generally assumes that the people he interviews in the military about the war are "telling the truth -- they're just not telling me the whole truth. If you think they're lying all the time, you're never going to get a piece done."
DEAL MAY BE SET FOR SAWYER TO ANCHOR WORLD NEWS TONIGHT
Diane Sawyer will take over as sole anchor of ABC's World News Tonight, according to FoxNews.com's entertainment columnist, Roger Friedman, who cited unidentified sources. She is expected to assume permanent occupancy of the anchor's desk considerably before May 15th, when Katie Couric's contract with NBC expires, Friedman indicated, with Elizabeth Vargas, the current WNT anchor, taking over Sawyer's duties on Good Morning America.
IDOL TRIUMPHS AGAIN, BUT BONES CAN'T RATTLE RATINGS
To no one's surprise, Fox's American Idol once again drew outsized ratings Wednesday night as about 30 million viewers tuned in. Its 17.4 rating and 26 share was enough to give Fox an easy win for the night, despite the fact that ratings for Idol's lead-out show, Bones, dropped to a 7.5/11, losing to CBS's Criminal Minds and a repeat of ABC's Lost. Fox averaged a 12.5/19 for the night. CBS placed second with an 8.1/12, followed by NBC with a 6.3/10 and ABC with a 5.0/8.
STERN TO APPEAR ON NETWORK THAT IS SUING HIM
Despite the fact that CBS is suing Howard Stern for using his former syndicated radio show to promote his current broadcasts on the Sirius satellite network, Stern remains on the lineup for the March 13th edition of CBS's Late Show With David Letterman, where he will presumably continue to promote the Sirius show."This is a booking that has been planned by the show since January," CBS Entertainment spokesman Chris Ender told today's (Thursday) Washington Post. "Obviously issues have arisen since then, but we respect the show's editorial independence and don't intend to censor their programming decisions."
LATEST ITUNES DEAL: A MONTH OF DAILY SHOWS FOR $9.99
The Apple iTunes Store, which has attempted to maintain a standard price of $1.99 for each download of an available television episode available on the site, is altering its model somewhat with the addition of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report from Comedy Central. In an announcement on Wednesday, the iTunes Store described a new option called Multi-Pass, which will allow a month of episodes of the two daily shows to be automatically downloaded to an individual's personal computer the day after each episode airs for $9.99. Individual episodes will still cost $1.99. Sixteen all-new episodes will be delivered each month; repeats will not be. "It's the immediacy of the iTunes service that make it perfect for these shows," Comedy Central GM Michelle Ganeless told Bloomberg News.
WILL NBC BUY WEBSITE IT LOOKED HORNS WITH?
For the second time in less than a month, NBC has demanded that the video website YouTube.com remove a skit from Saturday Night Live that had been uploaded to the website. The latest skit, featuring a rapping Natalie Portman, was reportedly uploaded onto YouTube moments after the show aired but was yanked as soon as YouTube received a demand to do so from NBC (however, not before the skit had already been downloaded thousands of times). Indeed, the website has been giving the network a ton of free publicity for its shows and has been garnering an equal amount of publicity as a result of the network's legal actions against it. (The website says that it always complies with requests for deletions when they come from copyright holders.) A column by Ben Charny in the online trade publication eWeek,speculated Wednesday that NBC might very well decide to buy YouTube, indicating that an NBC spokesperson had suggested as much during a recent interview.
AN ALREADY-ABORTED BIG MEDIA SALE?
VNU, the Dutch conglomerate whose holdings include The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and Nielsen Media Research, has confirmed that its board has unanimously agreed to an offer from a group of private equity firms for about $8.9 billion in cash and an assumption of debt. However, published reports indicated that the deal faces opposition from shareholders who claim that the selling price was too low and that the company would fetch a far greater price if its individual companies were sold off piecemeal. Today's (Thursday) New York Times reported that two shareholders, Knight Vinke Asset Management and Fidelity International, who between them own enough stock to block the proposed takeover, have already announced that they will likely vote against it. VNU said it plans to hold a shareholders' meeting late next month to vote on the deal. The announcement came on the same day that The Hollywood Reporter announced that veteran entertainment reporter Cynthia Littleton had been appointed editor, replacing Howard Burns, who was named editorial director, a position, the trade paper said, that would give him oversight over its "print, electronic and face-to-face media."
OSCAR WINS NOT TRANSLATING TO TICKET SALES
Oscar winners saw virtually no spike in midweek attendance following Sunday night's ceremonies. Brokeback Mountain was the only film to return to the top ten, but its gross actually fell considerably below that of the previous week, when it was expected to take top honors. The film is not expected to remain in the top ten through the weekend. The best film winner, Crash, did see an increase in DVD sales, rising to No. 19 on Amazon.com's list of top sellers, up more than 80 places from the previous week. Lionsgate said on Monday that it had sold 17,500 copies of Crash, but that was nothing compared with North American sales of 5 million copies of the fourth Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, on the same day.
JET LI BIOPIC ATTACKED BY GRANDSON OF FILM'S SUBJECT
A grandson of legendary kung fu master Huo Yuanjia has filed a lawsuit against the producers and distributors of a new Jet Li biopic about him, claiming that the movie grossly misrepresents the actual life of Huo, who died in 1909, according to a report today (Thursday) by the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The grandson, Huo Shoujin, is demanding a written apology from the filmmakers and a halt to worldwide distribution of the film, which is titled Huo Yuanjia in Chinese and Fearless in English. The lawsuit further claims, without providing examples, that the film dishonors the kung fu master and tarnishes his reputation.
WILL DALLAS BE FILMED IN DALLAS?
Officials in Dallas have expressed concern that the state's lack of tax incentives for movie productions may result in filmmakers going elsewhere to film the upcoming Dallas ... the Movie, based on the TV hit of the '80s. In an interview with Dallas station KTVT, Mayor Laura Miller said, "We've met with the producer in L.A., and he's come to Dallas and they've driven around, and they know that this would be a great place to film. But the harsh reality is that Canada and Louisiana and other places offer cash incentives to get people to make movies there and we don't." Added Janis Burlund of the Dallas Film Commission: "There's more at stake then just money. Of course, there's the money to our economy, there's the jobs, but there's also a sense of civic pride and also a bit of a bruised ego and a black eye if we can't land the Dallas movie in Dallas."
FOX SEARCHLIGHT FILM TAKES OVER ALL AD SPACE ON MYSPACE.COM
Two of News Corp's corporate siblings, Fox Searchlight Films and the newly acquired social-networking site MySpace.com, were due to participate in a bit of synergy today (Thursday), with the film company taking over all advertising on the website for its new movie The Hills Have Eyes, which opens Friday. "The [ad] purchase allows the film unparalleled advertising exposure and helps connect site users to the remake of [the Wes Craven] horror classic," Fox Searchlight said in a statement. In addition to ads, MySpace.com users will be able to listen to portions of the movie's soundtrack, view clips and still photos from the movie, download wallpapers and a screen saver, and play a video game based on the movie.