60 MINUTES PRODUCER TO OVERSEE EVENING NEWS
Only three weeks after taking the helm of CBS News, Sean McManus has named Rome Hartman, a producer of Lesley Stahl's segments on 60 Minutes to take over as the producer of the CBS Evening News. He will replace Jim Murphy, who will remain at the network. The appointment of Hartman, who has worked on 60 Minutes for 15 years, reportedly came as a relief to network journalists who were concerned that CBS Chairman Les Moonves was pushing for a "more entertaining" nightly newscast. In an interview with Daily Variety, interim Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer remarked, "By picking someone like Rome I think McManus is sending the message that this is going to be a serious newscast." Interviewed by the TVNewser blog, Hartman said, "We have to aspire to be a smart, true digest of the day. And then we need to strike a balance between hard news and features." He also suggested that the news program may begin to resemble 60 Minutes. "The standard of storytelling at 60 Minutes is the best in TV journalism. And I'd certainly like to hold our evening newscast to similar standards of storytelling," he said. Meanwhile, NBC announced that Steve Capus, who had been named interim president at NBC News when Neal Shapiro left in September, would have the "interim" removed from his title.
NO THANKS FROM CBS FOR THANKSGIVING
With the television audience busy celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday -- ordinarily CBS's biggest ratings night -- ABC managed to take over as the ratings leader among the key advertiser target, adults 18-49, last week. It ended CBS's six-week-long victory in that category. CBS, however, continued to lead in overall households, as it has since the beginning of the season. The smaller Thursday-night audience also pushed CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation out of first place. ABC's Sunday-night drama Desperate Housewives took over the top spot. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 15.8/22; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Thanksgiving Special), CBS, 14.6/26; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.7/20; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 12.6/19; 5. Cold Case, CBS, 12.2/18; 6. Without a Trace (Thanksgiving Special), CBS, 11.9/23; 7. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 11.2/18; 8. Lost, ABC, 10.8/17; 8. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 10.8/17; 10. Survivor: Guatemala (Thanksgiving Special), CBS, 10.6/21.
CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION AT INDECENCY HEARINGS
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told a Senate Commerce Committee panel on broadcast indecency Tuesday that the commission, which only a few years ago received just a few hundred indecency complaints, now receives hundreds of thousands of such complaints. While noting that parents have a duty to be vigilant about restricting their children's viewing, "the industry has a responsibility to empower parents by offering them more and more effective tools with which to supervise their children's TV watching." He faulted the industry for its lack of action, saying, "I think the industry needs to do more to address parents' legitimate concerns." However, he observed, if it does not, government should step in as "the last resort." But Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the committee chairman, remarked, "After years of inadequate and ineffective voluntary efforts by the industry, we are no closer to solving the problem of indecent and violent programming for children while also giving parents the tools they need to protect their families." However, broadcasters appearing at the panel accused the FCC of a double standard when it comes to cable TV. Clear Channel executive Jessica Marventano objected to government's efforts to apply "draconian" limits on broadcasters, "but hang a neon sign above their cable and satellite competitors saying 'Anything is permissible.'" Bonneville Broadcasting's CEO Bruce Reese also urged Congress "to consider the uneven playing field that broadcasters have with our satellite and cable competitors" and called attention to recent deals that will pipe shock jocks Opie and Anthony and Howard Stern will be "into 25 million satellite television homes." Reporting on the hearings, Billboard Radio Monitor commented on its website today (Wednesday): "The implications are clear that Congress wants to pass legislation that would subject some of the programming distributed on cable and satellite to the same set of indecency standards that over-the-air broadcasters live by."
STONES TO ROCK SUPER BOWL HALFTIME
The Rolling Stones, who have reluctantly accommodated network censors in the past (in 1967, they changed the words of the song "Let's Spend the Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together" when they performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show), have been booked as the halftime stars at Super Bowl XL, set for Feb. 5 on ABC. The network said that it will air their performance with a 5- to 10-second delay in order to guard against any possible repeat of an incident like the one in 2004 involving Janet Jackson.
RINGTONE TO BE PREMIERED ON CSI:NY
In the latest twist involving product placements, tonight's (Wednesday) episode of CSI: NY will include a scene in which a cell phone belonging to one of the lead characters will ring with the ringtone taken from the song "Talk" by Coldplay. During the commercial break, viewers will be informed how they can purchase the ringtone for $2.49. The promotion is part of a deal between CBS and Capitol Records that also calls for music from Coldplay's X&Y CD to be played later in the program.
BAGHDAD REPORTER ASKS, "WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR ... HUMANITY"
NBC's The Daily Nightly blog, whose stated goal is to give transparency to NBC Nightly News, also seemed to reveal a lot about the psyche of reporter Richard Engel, who is currently reporting from Baghdad on the trial of Saddam Hussein. Engel wrote: "Sunday I met the suicide bomber who attacked our bureau nearly two weeks ago. At least I saw him. The encounter was macabre, but not unusual in Baghdad these days. I saw the bomber's face, curled up like a piece of leather parchment on the pavement in front of our bureau. It was a flap of skin with eye holes, the nose and half a mouth. It had been blown into a tree during the bombing and then dislodged yesterday by a bird. ... Last month after another suicide bombing I saw another face -- of the bomber or a victim, I don't know. It was stuck to a shrapnel-pocked wall like a mask. I started to talk about the odd coincidence with another reporter -- seeing two faces, who would have thought? We traded stories for a few minutes, one more grotesque than the next. I think it occurred to us at about the same time: 'What happened to our sensitivity? Our humanity?'"
MUNICH TO LAUNCH QUIETLY
The Dec. 23 premiere of Steven Speilberg's Munich will not be accompanied by the usual news conferences, talk-show appearances and print interviews that ordinarily attend the release of a major film, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday). Marvin Levy, Spielberg's personal publicist, told the newspaper that the director "wants everybody not to have preconceptions, to see the movie and make up their own minds." The Universal Pictures film recounts the terrorist massacre of Israel's Olympic team at Munich in 1972 and the subsequent efforts of Israel's Massad to avenge the killings.
BLOCKBUSTER CFO: 2005 WAS "A VERY TOUGH YEAR"
Blockbuster CFO Larry J. Zine, acknowledging that business for his company is down 10 percent this year, told an investors conference in New York Tuesday, "It has been a very tough year for us, a tough year that no one in the industry predicted." Zine blamed the overall performance of the theatrical box office and expressed confidence that with ticket sales rising this month and with several potential hits due in December, rentals would rise in tandem. Shares in Blockbuster, which started the year at $10.45, were trading at $3.74 at midmorning today (Wednesday).
ICAHN STEPS UP BATTLE AGAINST TIME WARNER BOARD
Seeming to telegraph the message that he intends an all-out attack on the Time Warner board of directors in general and its chairman, Richard Parson, in particular, Carl Icahn has hired Bruce Wasserstein, head of the investment bank Lazard, to put together the names of an alternate slate of directors and to work on a plan to force the media giant to spin-off its cable systems. In a statement, Icahn said that he "continued to believe that Time Warner's stock is greatly undervalued and that the company is in need of a major restructuring."
FAMILY FILM RECEIVES MOST NODS FOR INDIE AWARDS
Samuel Goldwyn Films' The Squid and the Whale was named in six categories Tuesday in nominations for the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards, the independent filmmakers' equivalent of the Oscars. Also nominated in the best picture category (and in three others) were Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain; Sony Pictures Classics' Capote and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada; and Warner Independent Pictures' Good Night, and Good Luck. The awards presentation will be carried live by the Independent film Channel at 5:00 p.m. March 4, and an edited version will air on AMC at 10:00 p.m. the same day.
KATRINA KILLS PLANS FOR NEW ORLEANS STUDIO
Hurricane Katrina may have wiped out plans to build a $20-million movie studio near New Orleans, the New Orleans Times-Picayune indicated Tuesday. Plans for the studio, which were announced just weeks before the hurricane hit and days after Louisiana legislators enhanced their already liberal tax incentives for filmmakers, have been shelved, said Bob Papazian, CEO of Sunset-Gower Studios. Papazian, who described the status of the project as somewhere between "slowed down" and "killed," said that although the Algiers area of the city, where the studio was to be built, suffered little damage, the storm has made investors wary. The newspaper noted that when investors recently visited the site, they found that it had been used without permission to store eight-story-tall mountains of storm debris. Owner Barry Kern said that although the debris has now been removed, the investors' visit "left a lot of questions" in their minds about the viability of the project.
JULIA ROBERTS REMAINS TOP-PAID ACTRESS
Julia Roberts may not have starred in a movie this year but she remains the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, commanding $20 million a film, according to the Hollywood Reporter's annual list of top-earning actresses. Nicole Kidman ranked second at $16-17 million per movie, followed by Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore with $15 million. Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz followed with salaries of $10-15 million per movie.
CHURCHES TO PREVIEW CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
As part of Disney's church outreach in marketing The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it has arranged for the 20,000 members of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA to see the movie on Dec. 8, one day before its official opening, the Orange County Register reported today (Wednesday). The church, which has booked 13 theaters for the special screening, has asked its regular members to bring their "unchurched" friends. The Register said that plans for similar screenings are being implemented in other parts of the country, following a recent series of previews for more than 1,400 religious leaders.