TV'S FADING BEAUTIES

The annual Miss U.S.A. Pageant -- like virtually every other beauty pageant -- continued to take a beating in the ratings Sunday. The NBC telecast drew just 3.73 million in the first half hour, and while it improved to 6.71 million in the final half hour for the crowning, the number did not lift the network from the cellar. Meanwhile, on CBS a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, "The Courageous Heart of Irene Sendler," drew just 9.8 million -- not bad, but a far cry from the overwhelming victories the Hallmark series once produced.

MORE NEWS ON TV, FEWER REPORTERS

Television stations were producing more local news programs than ever before in 2008 but using fewer employees -- and paying them less -- to do so, according to a study by Hofstra University for the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). The study found that local TV stations shed 1,200 jobs during the year -- representing 4.3 percent of total news employees. The figure was greater than the 3.8 percent job loss in the overall U.S. economy but far less than the 11.3 percent job loss at U.S. newspapers. However, 13.3 percent of reporters at the local stations saw their salaries cut; so did 11.5 percent of news anchors. At the same time, the average station added a half-hour of local news to its weekday schedule, setting a record of 4.6 hours per weekday. (Last week, reports indicated that TV stations were replacing expensive syndicated programs with additional local newscasts.)

NEW DIGS FOR FOX BUSINESS NETWORK

Fox Business Network today (Monday) unveiled a new high-tech studio located on the east side of the News Corp headquarters in Manhattan that rises from the street to the fifth floor, the top of which has been covered with paving stones allowing for outdoor productions in warm weather. Broadcasting & Cable magazine provided a further description of the technical innovations that the studio will incorporate: "Three main moving floor parts rotate and pivot into different configurations, and a movable staircase connects to a standup location above the studio. The 3,500-square-foot space is also outfitted with a variety of hi-def displays to show real-time graphics and video."

AFTRA, SAG SIGN NEW COMMERCIALS PACT WITH AD AGENCIES

Concluding what were described as "amicable" negotiations, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on Saturday endorsed a new three-year contract with the advertising industry covering the production of commercials. In a statement that contrasted with his adamant opposition to the deal concluded with the movie studios and TV networks, SAG President Alan Rosenberg said, "I am pleased and gratified to have achieved these gains and to recommend this agreement for ratification." While the ad industry was unable to push through a proposal that would have paid actors residuals based on ratings for commercials rather than on a "pay for play" basis, it did succeed in persuading the unions to set up a joint pilot study to explore the ratings compensation scheme.

GE SEES PROFIT DROP -- BUT NOT AS BAD AS EXPECTED

A 45-percent drop in quarterly profits by NBC Universal represented small potatoes for parent GE compared to a 58-percent plunge in profits by the much larger GE Capital unit. NBC Universal's profit was put at $391 million, while GE Capital's came in at $1.12 billion. Nevertheless, many of GE's manufacturing units fared better than expected, and the company reported net income of $2.74 billion versus $4.3 billion during the year-ago quarter. The numbers were better than Wall Street had expected, and they sent stock in the company soaring to more than $12.00 a share -- more than double what it was a month ago. Profit takers, however, moved in in early trading today (Monday), and shares had fallen nearly 10 percent at mid-morning.

TALK-SHOW HOST BUSTED ON CAMERA

Unedited footage of former conservative radio talk-show host John Ziegler being ordered to stop conducting interviews outside a hall at USC where CBS's Katie Couric was being honored last week -- then being handcuffed by university guards and hauled away when he refused -- was being posted on numerous conservative websites over the weekend. A campaign was quickly mounted on Couric's Twitter page demanding that she speak out against Ziegler's treatment. (During a discussion at the USC affair, Couric remarked: "I Twitter and blog very selectively ... I don't think anybody gives a rats ass whether I am about to eat a tuna sandwich. I don't even care.") While he was being handcuffed, Ziegler repeatedly mentioned the irony of being mistreated as a journalist outside an affair dedicated to excellence in journalism and laughed throughout the experience.

Cinemark Movie Club