Former CBS anchor Dan Rather has called on President Obama to form a non-partisan, blue-ribbon commission to investigate the current state of the news media. In an op-ed piece appearing in today's (Tuesday) Washington Post,Rather argues that media consolidation and government deregulation have resulted in a reduction in the number of news outlets. Those that remain, he writes, "have largely come under corporate mandates to increase profits quarterly - which has meant a reduction in news-gathering personnel, the shuttering of overseas bureaus, and the nearly complete subordination of a public trust to the profit motive." Moreover, Rather continues, the media conglomerates often have "multiple regulatory, procurement, and legislative matters before various arms of the federal government. Their interests, therefore, can often run contrary to those of the citizens whom journalism, at its best, is meant to serve. There is little incentive to report without fear or favoritism on the same government one is trying to lobby." He concludes: "This is a crisis that threatens our democratic republic at its core. But you won't hear about it on your evening news unless the message can be delivered in a way that corporate media have little choice but to report -- such as, say, the findings of a presidential commission."


Simon Cowell, who had previously hinted that he might leave American Idolafter next season, has signed a new deal for three more years, the show's producers said Monday. Confirmation of the new deal came from Robert Sillerman, chairman and CEO of CKX, the corporate parent of 19 Entertainment, a co-producer of the talent show. Although Sillerman did not disclose details of the deal with Cowell, earlier reports had indicated that he will earn $45 million per year.


One of the professional dancers who appears on ABC's Dancing With the Starshas weighed in on ABC Entertainment chief Stephen McPherson's indirect invitation to Paula Abdul to join the show. "I think we're good with our judges," Mark Ballas, who was winning competitor Shawn Johnson's partner last season, told E! News. He also indicated that Abdul ought not to be considered for a role on the show as another professional. "She can't be a professional because she's not a ballroom or a Latin dancer," he said. However, he added, "I think she should be on the show as a competitor" -- that is, another contestant, facing the kind of judging panel she just left.


Whatever designs corporate raider Carl Icahn may have had on Lions Gate Entertainment were dealt a setback Monday with word that the company experienced a whopping 30-percent rise in profits, largely due to its TV successes and its much criticized (by Icahn) acquisition of TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com. The company reported net income of $36.3 million on revenue of $387.7 million. Analysts had expected the company to report a loss. While its movie business reported a 6-percent rise in revenue, TV revenue soared 112 percent to $87.2 million from $41.1 million during the comparable period a year ago, thanks primarily to such cable series as Weeds, Nurse Jackie, Tyler Perry's House of Payne,and South Park.TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com brought in $27.8 million. Icahn, who owns 17.7 percent on Lions Gate's shares, had been highly critical of the company's management and had threatened to launch a proxy contest at the company's annual meeting on September 15. Early today (Tuesday), the company announced that it had reached a deal with Redbox to distribute its DVDs through the kiosk operator. (Universal and Fox, on the other hand, are attempting to block Redbox from using their DVDs within 30 days of their release.)


Some of the final broadcasts of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, which began airing daily on NBC in January, 1949 and was the first-ever show to air in color in 1953, are being released today (Tuesday) on DVD (only at www.kulafranandollie.com). The shows were the comeback episodes that aired on PBS from 1969-1971. The series was unusual in that it was aimed at attracting both children and adults. Martin Tahse, who produced some of the episodes in the series, told today's Los Angeles Times, "It was a two-tier comedy for the parents and the kids, and they would watch it together." Tahse said that Burr Tillstrom, who created the puppets used on the show, included a codicil in his will saying that after his death "nobody can put their hands in his puppets and use them, because he was the puppets and when he died they died." The puppets are currently on display at the Chicago History Museum. Tillstrom died in 1995. Fran Allison, the only other human performer on the series, died in 1989.