L.A. TIMES EDITOR ASSAILS FOX NEWS

The editor of the Los Angeles Times has leveled a scathing attack against Fox News Channel, charging that the cable news network practices "pseudo journalism" and is intent on manipulating its audience. Delivering the annual Ruhl Lecture at the University of Oregon last Thursday, editor John S. Carroll cited a study that showed that 80 percent of the people who watch Fox News Channel believed either that: weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq; a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda had been demonstrated; or most of the world approved of the U.S. action in Iraq. "How in the world could Fox have left its listeners so deeply in the dark?" Carroll asked, according to Friday's edition of the Oregon Daily Emerald, the university's student newspaper.

POTTER IS NO MATCH FOR SURVIVOR

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone produced decent ratings for ABC Sunday night -- an average 8.2 rating and a 13 share between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. -- but it didn't have the magical clout to overcome strong ratings for the season finale of Survivor: All-Stars on CBS, with a 13.2/20 and the live Survivor: All-Stars Reunion, with a 13.1/20. (Amber Brkich won the $1-million top prize.) Combined with a 9.0/17 for 60 Minutes in the 7:00 p.m. hour, CBS was able to claim victory in every primetime half hour Sunday night, as it averaged a 12.1/19. NBC was in third place with a 6.7/11, followed by Fox with a 4.2/7.

THE LATEST FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE?

ABC is considering pulling the plug on Empire, its epic "limited series" that takes place during the Roman empire, because of soaring cost overruns, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). According to the newspaper, the budget for the series, originally set at $30 million, is now $6 million higher and could go higher still. Moreover, the Times observed, Empire was originally championed by former ABC Entertainment resident Susan Lyne. Her successor, Steve McPherson, on the other hand, has reportedly been charged with seeing that the fortunes of the fourth-place network are turned around.

ABC SCHEDULES KIDS FLICK WHEN MANY KIDS CAN'T SEE IT

Critics are taking ABC to task for its decision to air the classic children's novel A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, on Monday night -- a school night -- and running it until 11:00 p.m., long after kids ought to be in bed. Writing in the San Diego Union-Tribune, TV critic Robert P. Laurence commented: "You'd think that this network, a property of the Walt Disney Co., the most massive family entertainment conglomerate in the universe, would know ... better than to scheduled it on a school night." Similarly, Ellen Gray writes in the Philadelphia Daily News: "I'm not sure what ABC is up to in scheduling a movie based on one of the most beloved children's books of all time [between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.] on a school night." Phil Rosenthal in the Chicago Sun-Times points out that the network had originally scheduled it to run as a four-hour miniseries in the 2001-2002 season, but shelved it. The film receives mostly positive reviews. Roger Catlin writes in the Hartford Courant that "it's good enough to keep pre-adolescents awake past their bedtime." Noel Holston, writing in Newsday says that although the "TV-size budget really shows" when it comes to the sets and special effects, it nevertheless "has much to recommend it."

CNBC CANCELS ITS NIGHTLY NEWS SHOW

The News on CNBC, anchored by John Seigenthaler, which was only attracting about 142,000 viewers per night, has been canceled. In a statement, CNBC chief Pamela Thomas-Graham said, "Our decision to move in a different strategic direction with our programming has necessitated this change" Seigenthaler will continue to anchor the NBC Nightly News on Sundays and is also expected to replace Brian Williams on Saturdays when Williams succeeds Tom Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News on Dec. 1.

IBEW SAYS IT WON'T ALLOW FOX, CNN TECHS AT GOP CONVENTION

The New York local of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has announced its intentions not to allow CNN and Fox News Network technicians to install the necessary cable to broadcast live coverage of the Republican National Convention this summer. Both news channels are non-union. "This is a union town, these are union jobs, this is going to be a union convention," Brian McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, told today's (Monday) New York Post. CNN technicians are also expected to man cameras and other equipment for the pool feed to the major TV networks, which are unionized.

CNN ANCHOR FELT HE WAS IN JEOPARDY ON JEOPARDY

CNN anchor Aaron Brown has admitted that he has rarely been so unnerved as he was participating in a celebrity edition of Jeopardy that airs this week. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brown said that for him the experience was "really terrifying. Never in my life have I been so glad to see a half-hour end." Brown, whose rivals included former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and former TV reporter Ashleigh Banfield, said that being a contestant on the show "tapped into all my little insecurities and craziness. ... I just don't want to look stupid. ... I've spent 30 years faking people into believing I'm reasonably bright. I could see it all evaporate in 30 minutes."

NOT QUITE A MONSTER SMASH

Van Helsing took a big bite out of the weekend box office as it opened with an estimated $54.2 million, but the figure was nowhere near last year's summer season opener, X2, which took in $85.6 million, or the record $114.8 million taken in by Spider-Man in 2002. Although some reports referred to the film's "monster opening," the film, which reportedly cost more than $160 million to produce, does not appear likely to garner that amount back in its domestic run, analysts said. (It opened on Friday to mostly negative reviews.) Next week it is due to battle against Warner Bros' Troy, with Brad Pitt. The only other film that opened wide, New York Minute, starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, appeared to have already run out of time as it posted just $6.2 million to place fourth. In the No. 2 spot was last week's top film, Mean Girls, which grossed $14 million, followed by Man on Fire with $7.9 million, in its third weekend. Overall, the box office took in $112 million, about the same as the comparable weekend last year.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Van Helsing, $54.2 million; 2. Mean Girls, $14 million; 3. Man on Fire, $7.9 million; 4. New York Minute, $6.2 million; 5. 13 Going on 30, $5.5 million; 6. Laws of Attraction, $3.5 million; 7. Kill Bill -- Vol. 2, $3 million; 8. Godsend, $2.7 million; 9. Envy, $2.6 million; 10. The Punisher, $1.2 million.

MOORE DENIES HE TRIED TO INCITE CONTROVERSY OVER HIS FILM

Michael Moore has responded to assertions by the Walt Disney Co. that he knew more than a year ago that Disney would not distribute his Fahrenheit 911 and that he has raised the issue now simply to attract publicity. In a message posted on his website, Moore acknowledged that he was originally told last year that the studio would not distribute his film -- "except that Disney kept sending us all that money [$6 million] to make the movie. Miramax [told me] there was no problem. I got the idea that everything was fine." Responding to Disney Chairman Michael Eisner's claim that Disney could not distribute "a partisan political film that may offend some of our customers," Moore observed that in 1998 Disney distributed his own "very partisan movie" called The Big One. As for the charge that his comments represented a publicity stunt, Moore replied: "Let me tell you something: NO filmmaker wants to go through this kind of controversy. It does NOT sell tickets (I can cite many examples of movies who have had to change distributors at the last minute and all have failed). I made this movie so people could see it as soon as possible. This is a huge and unwanted distraction."

EISNER SAID HE GOT CONFLICTING ADVICE FROM FAMILY ABOUT OVITZ

In a letter that has surfaced among new documents unsealed in a shareholder lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co., Michael Eisner wrote that he hired super agent Michael Ovitz in 1995 in part because his wife wanted him to bring in a strong executive to relieve him of some of his workload. However, he said, his sister (not named) and son Eric warned him that he was making a mistake. One of the letters, quoted in today's (Monday) New York Times, shows that Eisner wrote to two company directors on Oct. 1, 1996: "My desire to satisfy my wife's honest request that I get help, my desire to appear not threatened by strong executives, my desire to seek experienced help to run ABC, and my desire to do what was right for Disney, all clouded my basic instinct that I was making a mistake."

A PREVIEW OF PROTESTS TO COME AT CANNES?

The Cannes Film Festival has yet to open -- it does so on Wednesday -- but protesting actors and technicians have already embarked on a campaign of disruption. Films from abroad arriving to be shown at the festival could not be placed in a warehouse near Paris because about 100 workers blocked the entrance. They are protesting cuts in unemployment and other social services benefits. The brief demonstration reportedly was mounted to show government officials what could be expected when the festival opens if they do not grant the unions' demands. Paris newspapers have printed reports that members of other unions might descend on Cannes to show their support for the showbiz workers.

VIDEO DEALERS MAY HAVE TO RETHINK USED DVD POLICIES

Individual video store dealers and chains that plan to expand their business in used DVDs have begun to rethink their strategy after being alerted that they will have to comply with special secondhand-dealer laws that require them to obtain a license, pay a fee, register personal information from the person they're taking the DVDs from, and keep the used disks off their shelves for a specified time period, Video Store magazine reported today (Monday). Sean Bersell, a spokesman for the Video Software Dealers Association, told the publication: "It is incumbent upon anybody who is involved in buying and reselling previously viewed videos and video games to be aware of the state and local laws that govern that trade." One Chicago police official told the publication that authorities have a special interest in enforcing the secondhand dealer laws, since CDs and DVDs are stolen in 80 percent of residential burglaries.

CENSORED INDIAN FILM IS SHOWN IN ENGLAND

The Indian film The Pink Mirror , banned by Indian authorities because of its homosexual content, was screened at the Manchester Commonwealth Film Festival in England Thursday night. The director of the film, Sridhar Rangayan, told the BBC on Friday that although drag queens are allowed to be depicted in some Bollywood films so long as they were derided, he thought that such persons ought to be presented sympathetically. "I felt these characters were not portrayed at all in any cinema in India," he said. "They need to be given a voice without being ridiculed."

Cinemark Movie Club