BUSH "REHEARSAL" GOES ON AIR
In a technical goof that was captured on tape and quickly found its way onto dozens of websites, CNN Monday night carried 16 seconds of President Bush rehearsing his speech to the nation on immigration, then looking bewildered when studio technicians apparently interrupted him. Moments later, anchor Wolf Blitzer appeared on camera, blaming the gaffe on "the network pool." Likewise, the Associated Press this morning (Tuesday) reported that a few seconds of the president practicing the speech was also carried by many NBC affiliates on the West Coast that were airing early evening newscasts. The network later cited "a miscommunicated cue from our pool." The Washington Post's Tom Shales, who observed that most of the president's planned remarks had been leaked to the press earlier in the day, commented, "Perhaps we should be grateful for the mistake, since it was the only thing lending an element of surprise to the occasion."
REPORTERS WARNED THEY'RE PHONE CALLS ARE BEING MONITORED
ABC News investigative reporters Brian Ross and Richard Esposito say they have been warned that federal authorities are tracking the phone numbers that they call in an effort to seal leaks from their confidential sources. Writing on an ABC-TV blog, the two said that their government source told them, "It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick." The reporters said that they had learned from other sources that "reporters for ABC News, along with The New York Times and The Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation." Ross and Esposito commented, "Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials. The CIA asked for an FBI investigation of leaks of classified information following those reports." Messages left on the ABC blog largely supported the government's investigation, however. One writer remarked, "Good! I hope they do find out who is leaking national security info to the press. I'm tired of the press helping our enemies." Another commented, "You seditionist creeps deserve what you get. Who knows how many serviceman [sic] have died because of your 'right to know.'"
ACTORS UNION URGES MEMBERS TO PROTEST FINES
Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg has urged members of the union to contact their U.S. Senators asking them to oppose proposed legislation that would permit the FCC to fine individual performers as much as $500,000 if they participate in indecent broadcasts. Rosenberg's "sample message" contains this language: "As an actor, I am hired to perform roles as instructed by my employers. The notion that we can be subject to a $500,000 fine for doing our jobs on scripted programs is outrageous. Please protect me, and every other American, from these outlandish fines."
NBC TOUTS WEB CONTENT
NBC Universal Television Group chief Jeff Zucker devoted a considerable portion of his company's upfront pitch to advertisers Monday to plans for enhancing NBC's presence on the Internet. (Reporting on the presentation, today's New York Times remarked that it was "so lengthy ... that some members of the audience grew restive, wondering when Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, would return to discuss the primetime schedule.) Figuring in the company's plans is a comedy channel with archives of classic sitcoms like Leave It to Beaver and promotions for current sitcoms, including short "webisodes" that will only be shown online; a preview channel where viewers can view episodes of new series -- including those on the company's cable networks -- before they begin airing; and an animated comic book based on the characters in Heroes, about a group of people who suddenly discover they have superhuman powers.
MYSPACE.COM FINDS SPACE FOR FOX SHOWS
Social-networking site MySpace.com, bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp last year for $580 million, will mark a commercial debut of sorts on Monday, May 22 when it launches a section called "Have It Your Way." Featuring ads from Burger King, the section will give visitors the opportunity to download two free episodes of the Fox drama 24. They'll also be able to download the entire first and fifth seasons of the drama for $1.99 per episode.
TRUMP: ONLY ONE CYCLE OF APPRENTICE NEXT YEAR
Donald Trump has blamed overexposure for the downturn in the ratings for The Apprentice this season. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Daily News, Trump said that there will only be one cycle of the series next season, which will begin next January. "It was always going to be one event, like American Idol," Trump said following NBC's upfront presentation of its new season to advertisers on Monday. "But because it became so successful, we had it on twice. ... If you think about it, including the Martha [Stewart] fiasco, we had three seasons of The Apprentice this year." NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly told the Daily News that the show nevertheless continued to attract viewers last season. "It just settled in from being a phenomenon to being a success," he said.
MTV AND MICROSOFT TO INVADE IPOD TERRITORY
Viacom's MTV and Microsoft are joining up to challenge Apple's dominance in digital music downloading with a new service called Urge, set to go online Wednesday with more than two million music tracks. Individual tracks will cost 99 cents, the same price charged by Apple's iTunes Music Store. A monthly subscription will cost $9.95 if a user wants to stream the music on his computer or $14.95 per month to download it onto a portable player. (It will not work with an iPod.) MTV Networks President Van Toffler observed in an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Times that only 5 percent of music is currently sold as digital downloads (the rest, as traditional CDs). "We are just getting going," he remarked.
MTV VJ STARTS "HOSTING" OMAHA NEWSCAST
An Omaha TV station is using a former MTV VJ to "host" its 10:00 newscast. In effect, Brian McFayden performs an opening comedy routine that leads into the actual newscast on KXVO-TV. In Friday's bit, posted online at www.kxvo.com/news/2796851.html?video=YHI, McFayden told how he was called into the front office to be warned by the news director and the station manager about using indecent language on the air. He was then shown in the front offices asking the bosses about the words he can or cannot use (each instance being duly bleeped). Finally, chatting with the station's actual news anchor, McFayden remarks, "I want to make sure I don't slip and say things that might get me sent packing back to Los Angeles." Commenting on the bit, Mike James, who edits the NewsBlues website, remarked, "This crappy little station is putting on a pretty cool little show, and McFayden is perfectly cast in his job as news 'host.'"
THE POSEIDON MISADVENTURE
Warner Bros.' Poseidon sailed straight into an iceberg of moviegoer indifference over the weekend, earning only $22.2 million. While the figure was about $2 million more than studio estimates, it was nevertheless a disastrous debut for a film that reportedly cost at least $130 million to produce and may have cost as much as $200 million. Meanwhile, Paramount's Mission: Impossible III took in $25 million in its second weekend to remain the top film and bring its total to $85.1 million. Overall, the box office was down slightly from the same weekend last year and it is expected to fall even more sharply behind last year next week. Although Sony's The Da Vinci Code will almost certainly perform strongly, no one expects it to top the $102.1 million raked in by Star Wars: Episode III -- The Revenge of the Sith, which opened during the comparable weekend in 2005. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Mission: Impossible III, Paramount, $25,008,971, 2 Wks. ($85,100,142); 2. Poseidon, Warner Bros., $22,155,410, (New); 3. RV, Sony, $9,950,858, 3 Wks. ($43,271,427); 4. Just My Luck, 20th Century Fox, $5,692,285, (New); 5. An American Haunting, Freestyle Releasing, $3,564,379, 2 Wks. ($10,814,081); 6. United 93, Universal, $3,508,125, 3 Wks. ($25,555,100); 7. Stick It, Disney, $3,166,426, 3 Wks. ($22,145,314); 8. Ice Age: The Meltdown, 20th Century Fox, $3,150,490, 7 Wks. ($187,570,805); 9. Akeelah and the Bee, Lionsgate, $2,403,420, 3 Wks. ($14,008,069); 10. Hoot, New Line, $2,292,677, 2 Wks. ($6,380,246).
PIXAR FOUGHT DISNEY TO PROTECT ITS "CHILDREN," SAYS LASSETER
John Lasseter, the co-founder and creative leader of Pixar, has acknowledged that he worried endlessly during the protracted negotiations with Disney about the possibility that Disney would produce sequels to the original Pixar films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc. if a deal extending their relationship wasn't concluded. In an interview with Fortune magazine, Lasseter said, "It would have been easier just to walk away, but Steve [Jobs] stayed in there for me, because I loved these characters that we have created. They're like family, like children. And if we didn't get a deal, Disney would own our children. Who knew what they would do? These were the people that put out Cinderella II. We believe that the only reason to do a sequel is if you have a great story, period. It's not 'Let's just keep cranking it out.'" Lasseter said that he and Jobs decided to wait until Michael Eisner left as CEO of the studio before resuming negotiations with Disney, and that he received a phone call from Robert Iger on the day he was named to succeed Eisner. "And that said a lot to us, because he was serious about wanting to make a deal with us to keep distributing our films. He understood that the biggest issue for us wasn't money, but to have control of our characters." When he heard that Disney wanted to take over Pixar, Lasseter recalled, "at first I was very nervous." However, he added, Jobs reassured him, saying, "Get to know Bob Iger. That's all I can say. He's a good man."
KERKORIAN RICHEST MAN IN L.A.
Former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian -- who added to his riches with the sale of the studio to Sony for $5 billion in 2004 -- is now the richest man in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal. The publication estimated Kerkorian's wealth at $9.3 billion. He was followed by Sumner Redstone, chairman of Viacom and CBS, whose fortune was estimated at about $7.4 billion. Redstone topped the list last year with $8.3 billion, but his position slipped following the downturn in the value of his Viacom and CBS holdings since Viacom's recent split. Despite several $25-million-plus salaries, no movie stars made the top 20. However, with a fortune estimated at $2.8 billion, director Steven Spielberg placed 14th on the list. DreamWorks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg came in 45th with a net worth of $859 million. Mel Gibson was the wealthiest actor, coming in at No. 47 with $850 million.
AUSTRALIAN ARCHBISHOP DEFENDS SHOWING OF DA VINCI CODE
The Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Australia has parted ways with several other Catholic clerics and has refused to support a boycott of The Da Vinci Code. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Archbishop Philip Wilson said today (Tuesday), "I think people should go and see the movie. I'm sure that many people have read the novel. ... If they take it at that level, remembering it is a novel, it is a story." At the same time, he remarked, "The church has a responsibility to help people to see the truth or not of what's being proposed" in the movie. Meanwhile, opposition to the film continues to mount. In Mumbai (Bombay), India, a man has put up a cash reward for the murder of Dan Brown, author of the book on which the movie is based. But John Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council said that his group opposes "any curbs on freedom of speech and of faith" and especially opposes "lunatic statements calling for the blood of authors."