Television stations in the Katrina-clobbered areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, attempted valiantly to remain on the air Wednesday, even though power, cable, and telephone outages were so extensive that few people were able to watch them. Some stations, operating with emergency generators, watched their fuel supplies dwindle as emergency conditions stretched out far beyond what they had prepared for. Studios and newsrooms at numerous stations experienced extensive damage, several reporting that expensive cameras and computer gear had been washed away. Some local TV reporters were called upon by national broadcast and cable networks to describe the human suffering. MarketWatch.com's Jon Friedman commented Wednesday that "much of the best and most heartfelt reporting and analysis that I saw this week came from New Orleans-based journalists. ... There is no way that a network reporter dispatched hastily to the terrible scene from New York or Washington could be expected to feel the same emotions as a native of the region." He particularly singled out Susan Roesgen, an anchor/reporter for WGNO-TV for her reports -- by telephone -- from the devastated city. WGNO, however, remained off the air along with sister station WNOL, which shared the same tower. Network correspondents dispatched to the scene appeared ill-prepared for the conditions they encountered. CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman told the NewsBlues.com website, "Getting food, getting water, getting gas are as much a part of your daily decision-making as anything else of covering the story." Strassman said that he and his five-member crew drove hundreds of miles without finding an open gas station. (Today's Washington Post said that CBS had sent a boat packed with supplies, including fuel, to its crew in New Orleans.) ABC's Cokie Roberts, who was raised in the area (her father was onetime House Minority Leader Hale Boggs; her mother Lindy succeeded him in office when he was killed in a plane crash in 1972), said that she was unable to cover the aftermath of Katrina because her 90-year-old mother had just been evacuated and was staying with her in Washington. Roberts told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "It would be irresponsible for me to go. I need to ... take care of my mother. I can't be hot-shotting in New Orleans like some kid." Of particular concern were the appearance of gun-toting looters in some areas. NBC said that it had hired private security personnel to protect its employees. Other networks are believe to have done the same.
VIEWERS REMAIN GLUED TO TV COVERAGE OF KATRINA
Ratings for the nightly news programs and the cable news channels have soared since the Hurricane Katrina struck. On Tuesday, Fox's primetime audience numbered 4.2 million, while CNN counted 3.7 million and MSNBC 1.5 million. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams registered 11.3 million; ABC's World News Tonight attracted 9.7 million; and the CBS Evening News, 8.1 million. On Wednesday night, a special CBS 48 Hours report on the hurricane scored a 6.0 rating and a 10 share at 8:00 p.m., representing 8.21 million viewers, to win the time period. At 9:00 p.m. an NBC Dateline special about Katrina captured a 9.3/14, representing 11.8 million viewers. And at 10:00 p.m., an ABC News special about the disaster scored a 7.4/12, or 9.22 million viewers.
NETWORKS SET CONCERT SPECIALS TO BENEFIT KATRINA VICTIMS
Meanwhile, several TV networks and cable channels announced plans to air benefit concerts to aid hurricane victims. But unlike the concert that aired following the 9/11 attacks, which aired simultaneously on all the major networks and on 31 cable channels, each of the networks has decided to go solo, with NBC (along with sister cable stations MSNBC and CNBC) hosting the first benefit, A Concert for Hurricane Relief, featuring performers identified with the region, Friday night at 8:00 p.m. Artists lined up for the event include Harry Connick Jr., Tim McGraw, and Wynton Marsalis. NBC said that it will be staged in New York and hosted by the Today show's Matt Lauer. It will also feature an appearance by Leonardo DiCaprio (who's from Los Angeles). Viacom's cable channels MTV, VH1 and CMT said that they would simulcast another concert on Sept. 10 featuring performances by Ludacris, Green Day, Usher, Alicia Keys and the Dave Matthews Band.
ABC HALTS PUBLICITY FOR NEW SERIES
ABC on Wednesday suspended marketing and promotional efforts on behalf of its upcoming series Invasion, which centers on the lives of a park ranger and his family after their hometown is devastated by a hurricane. The network said that it was also considering delaying the launch of the series, which had been scheduled for Sept. 21. In a statement, the network said, "As with anything as serious as this, we are taking great efforts to assess sensitivities with regard to our series." Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times quoted Shari Anne Brill of the ad firm Carat USA as saying, "They're in a tough spot. ... Maybe if they delayed for a couple of weeks, it might be all right."
CLOONEY: A CONTENDER IN VENICE
George Clooney tonight (Thursday) makes his bid for the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion award when he screens his black-and-white Good Night and Good Luck, about CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow's 1954 clash with Communist hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy. Clooney, who produced and directed the film and costars as Murrow's longtime collaborator Fred Friendly, is likely bracing for a political storm when the film is released on Oct. 7 in the U.S., where a considerable movement, led by commentator Ann Coulter, is gaining strength to resurrect the reputation of McCarthy. ("I can't wait to see [Clooney's] debate with Ann Coulter," one person, anticipating an encounter that is probably not likely to occur, wrote on a conservative blog.) The film stars David Straithairn as Murrow and Robert Downey Jr. as Joe Wershba, the principal reporter on Murrow's See It Now episodes that wrecked McCarthy's career. Murrow died in in 1965 at age 57. Friendly died in 1998 at age 82. Wershba is still alive at age 85. Meanwhile, New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove reported today that NBC canceled an appearance by Clooney on Dateline next month and replaced him with Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria "apparently under pressure to hype more tabloidy subjects." Clooney reportedly retaliated by canceling an appearance on NBC's Today show and booking himself on ABC's Primetime and Good Morning America, where he will be interviewed by Diane Sawyer.
DAN GLICKMAN CELEBRATES FIRST YEAR AS MPAA CHIEF
One year after succeeding Jack Valenti as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Dan Glickman is "still trying to find his way out of Valenti's shadow," the Hollywood Reporter commented today (Thursday) in a lengthy appraisal of Glickman's freshman year. Glickman himself said that he still regards Valenti as a "mentor," telling the trade publication, "I'd be a fool not to. That doesn't mean I do everything the way he would do it. I don't, but he's beloved in D.C. and Los Angeles, and I want to take the best from him." The Reporter observed that Glickman is reversing previous strategy by moving away from confrontation with "the technology community." Glickman said that he wants to "build bridges" with that community in the next six months. "I think we can do that," he said, "and our companies [studios] think we can do that. ... Thirty years ago, the MPAA didn't deal with the delivery systems, and now that's the heart of the business."
MPA GIVEN FREE HAND TO HUNT PIRATES IN NEW DELHI
A month-old report that originally appeared in the Hollywood Reporter that authorities in India had granted a search and seize warrant on July 19th to the MPA, the international branch of the Motion Picture Association of America, to hunt for pirated films in New Delhi has suddenly received prominent attention in the Indian press. Chander Lall, a lawyer for the MPA in New Delhi, told the Associated Press that the organization had not publicized the warrant because "we did not want the pirates to know this is the order we have." He declined to say whether any raids had actually been carried out. Indian filmmakers, who churn out more films annually than their counterparts in Hollywood, have reportedly been especially hard-hit by movie pirates and have made common cause with the MPA.
SHUNNED BY HOLLYWOOD, BRITISH STUDIO REPORTS LOSS
Pinewood Shepperton, which operates Britain's two largest film studios, has reported a loss of $204,000 for the first half of 2005 versus a profit of $2.11 million during the same period a year ago. The company said that uncertainty over whether Britain would continue tax breaks for film producers and the weakness of the dollar against the British pound had discouraged Hollywood producers from selecting the site for productions. It noted that only two "significant" Hollywood productions were shooting at the studio during the period: Sony's The Da Vinci Code and Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction.