NETWORKS GIVE UP VIEWERS FOR LENT

Adding to the networks' current woes, the number of viewers for their current fare dropped again last week amid numerous reruns and failing new series. Even Fox's American Idol, which continues to pull in enormous audiences, was down more than 10 percent from the comparable week last year. Running counter to the exodus, the debut of the police drama Southland on the fourth-place network NBC produced the best numbers for a new show in the 10:00 p.m. hour in years -- with the second half hour attracting nearly 11 million viewers. Ironically, it's an hour that NBC has written off as too problematic and has decided to fill with a nightly Jay Leno variety show in the fall. Overall, CBS finished the week with an average 7.0 rating and a 12 share. Fox placed second (but remained first among adults 18-49) with a 5.4/9. ABC came in a distant third with a 4.9/8, while NBC remained in the cellar with a 4.0/7.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 13.4/21; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 13.1/21; 3. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 12.5/19; 4. NCIS, CBS, 10.9/17; 5. NCAA Basketball Championships (Monday), CBS, 10.8/18; 6. The Mentalist, CBS, 10.3/16; 7. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 10.1/17; 8. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 9.1/14; 9. Criminal Minds, CBS, 8.5/13; 10. (Tie) CSI: NY, CBS, 7.9/13; 10. (Tie) House, Fox, 7.9/12; 10. (Tie) Without a Trace, CBS, 7.9/13.

MOST ADVERTISERS STAND BY TV DEALS

While the recession has certainly brought about a decline in revenue for the television networks, it is less serious than it has been for other media, according to a report by ad agency Zenith Optimedia and reported today (Wednesday) by Broadcasting & Cable. According to the study advertisers are expected to cut TV spending about 5.5 percent for 2009, well below the cuts for radio, newspapers, and magazines. "Advertisers that cut budgets across the board will often cut television last, since they know it best and are convinced of its effectiveness," the report said.

ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE GROUP DEMANDS TAKE DOWN OF CRITICAL VIDEO

The National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage and many non-discrimination court rulings affecting gay men and lesbians, has succeeded in using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to force YouTube and other video sites to remove a clip from the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC that included one of its advertisements and another Maddow clip showing actors auditioning for parts in the ads. As of Tuesday, a notice had replaced the Maddow clips reading, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by National Organization for Marriage." On its website, Wired magazine commented: "MSNBC, of course, would have been well within its rights to demand the clip be removed. But NOM asserting a copyright interest to have a critical newscast scrubbed from the net? That sets an extraordinary precedent." On her program, Maddow remarked, "Come now, anti-gay-marriage people, I know your campaign is about how we should all be afraid of gay marriage, but now you're scared about people talking about your stance on it?" Maddow noted that the clip remained posted on MSNBC's website and Wired noted that "Internet rebels are saving the videos with keepvid.com, and then uploading them back to YouTube when they're pulled."

ABC NEWS FIRES ITS MUSE

ABC reporter Bob Brown, famous for his inspirational features for the network -- particularly on its magazine shows, Primetime and 20/20 -- has been fired by the network after 22 years but told that he'll be able to do freelance work for it after June, the New York Post reported today (Wednesday). "I hope there's work available after June. It's a big change of status, that's for sure. I'll be sorry to leave," Brown told the newspaper's "Page Six" column. An unnamed staffer commented: "ABC has no regard for the people who helped them get where they are today. He's one of their old-school journalists and is loved by everybody."