NBC MAKES BIG SPLASH WITH OLYMPIC SWIMMING
Some 32 million viewers tuned in to watch Michael Phelps take his fourth and fifth gold medals in the 200-meter butterfly and the 800 freestyle relay at the Summer Olympics Tuesday night -- the best Tuesday-night audience recorded by NBC since 2002 during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The telecast's closest competitor for the night was a repeat of CBS's NCIS with 7.2 million viewers. Reporting on the results, today's (Thursday) New York Times asked in a headline, "So Who Exactly Is Watching Those Reruns of NCIS?" Well, according to Nielsen figures, the NCIS audience was down just 15 percent from its average this summer, not a particularly hard hit given the strength of what TV journalists are calling the "Olympics juggernaut."
IN SUPREME COURT FILING, TIME WARNER HITS FCC
Although it does not own any TV stations itself,Time Warner has filed a brief with the Supreme Court, which has agreed to review a court order striking down the FCC's decision that Fox Television had violated FCC rules by airing "fleeting indecency" during live awards ceremonies in 2002 and 2003. In its filing,Time Warner expressed concerns that, if the court upheld the FCC decision, the commission might be encouraged to institute "copycat restrictions on non-broadcast [i.e. cable] speech." Time Warner is the nation's second-largest cable operator, behind Comcast. "In light of the tools available to allow viewers to choose what cable speech to hear and not here, the government cannot possibly establish that content-based restrictions on such speech pass First Amendment muster," Time Warner said.
BRITISH REPORTER ROUGHED UP BY CHINESE POLICE AT OLYMPICS
An accredited reporter for Britain's Independent Television News and his cameraman were reportedly roughed up by police Wednesday as they covered a pro-Tibet protest in Beijing near the Olympic Stadium. John Ray, who is ITN's only full-time China correspondent, was reportedly wrestled to the ground, then removed to a nearby restaurant where police sat on his arms and one officer stood on his hand despite his declaration, in Chinese, that he was an accredited reporter. "It was very forceful, very rough," Ray told the Washington Post. His cameraman, Ben England, was also reportedly manhandled by police when he attempted to film the protest, and his equipment was confiscated. Both men were detained for about 20 minutes, then released. The International Olympic Committee said later that it would investigate the incident. Tessa Jowell, Britain's Olympics minister, told the London Times, "This was clearly a very ugly incident and is completely in contradiction to the assurances that the Chinese made about media freedom during the Olympics."
TV ACADEMY IMPARTS RESPECTABILITY TO AL JAZEERA ENGLISH
Al Jazeera English, which has tried to establish itself as a distinct news channel, independent of its Arab counterpart, received its first recognition from the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on Wednesday. The Academy announced that the Qatar-based satellite news channel had been nominated for programs in two categories, international news and public affairs. Al Jazeera English will be competing against programs produced by the U.K.'s ITV News, Canada's CBC, Brazil's TV Globo, Romania's Pro TV News and the Netherlands' SBS Broadcasting. Winners are due to be announced on September 22 at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards in New York.
ROCKY HORROR CREATOR HORRIFIED BY TV MOVIE PLANS
Wednesday's announcement that the 1975 cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show would be remade for Britain's Sky Movies and the U.S.'s MTV has been knocked by the film's original creator, Richard O'Brien. Although the announcement said that O'Brien would co-produce the new version, O'Brien himself told the BBC: "I'm not co-producing it and I won't be involved in any way. The first I heard about it was when people sent me cuttings from U.S. papers." He also denied the suggestion that he had given the movie a seal of approval. "It doesn't have my blessing," he said. "I don't know where they'll go with it really. ... I've even heard that they're going to put new songs in. I wrote the book, the music and the lyrics. Where are they going to get the songs from? Who's going to do that? That's a bit strange isn't it?"