60 MINUTES CREATOR DON HEWITT DEAD AT 86

TV news pioneer Don Hewitt, who created 60 Minutes in 1968 and was one of the most influential producers in television news from the dawn of television, died in New York today (Wednesday) of pancreatic cancer at age 86. He worked on the first televised political conventions in 1948 and directed the first live transcontinental commercial program, Edward R. Murrow's See It Now, in 1951. In 1960 he directed the first ever presidential debates between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. He was also the first producer of The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Hewitt reluctantly stepped down as executive producer of 60 Minutes in 2004.

NEW REPORT: ZELL IS ABOUT TO DEPART TRIBUNE

New reports emerged Tuesday that Sam Zell's days at the throne of the Tribune empire are numbered. The New York Post, citing a source familiar with the matter, said that Zell "is ready to walk away from the company." The real-estate developer had controversially used an employee stock ownership plan -- or ESOP -- to finance his takeover of Tribune, whose assets include the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WGN-TV in Chicago, and the Los Angeles Times and KTLA in Los Angeles, among numerous other holdings, including 22 television stations. The ESOP had made employees the company's owners, but now that Tribune is in bankruptcy, it's likely that their shares are worthless, since they are regarded as common shareholders, who must wait behind creditors to be paid off.

NBC HAS NO. 1 SHOW; CBS IS NO. 1 NETWORK

Although NBC scored solidly once again with its all-new editions of America's Got Talent, CBS remained the highest-rated network overall last week, both in terms of overall households and viewers 18-49, even though most of its programming was composed of reruns. An exception was its reality series Big Brother, which landed three episodes in the top ten among the 18-49 demo and tied for tenth place in households. The week also marked the return of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to the Nielsen top ten. But it was far from being the juggernaut it once was. Only the Monday edition made the top ten, tying for eighth place. For the week, CBS came in at No. 1 with a 4.1 rating and an 8 share. NBC placed second with a 3.4/6. ABC followed with a 2.8/5, while Fox trailed with a 2.5/5.

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

1. America's Got Talent (Tuesday), NBC, 7.7/13; 2. 60 Minutes, CBS, 7.6/15; 3. America's Got Talent (Wednesday 9:00 p.m.), 7.1/12; 4. NCIS, CBS, 5.9/11; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 5.8/10; 6. The Big Bang Theory, CBS, 5.7/9; 7. The Mentalist, CBS, 5.2/9; 8. CSI: Miami, CBS, 4.8/8; 8. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Monday), ABC, 4.8/8; 8. (Tie) CSI: Miami, ABC, 4.8/8; 10. Big Brother (Thursday), CBS, 4.7/9; 10. (Tie) CSI: NY, CBS, 4.7/8.

NEWS REPORTS REMAIN ALIGNED AS BEFORE

Among the evening newscasts, the results were little changed with NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams retaining the lead with 7.35 million viewers. ABC World News With Charles Gibson placed second with 6.74 million, while the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric trailed with 5.55 million.

AFGHAN AUTHORITIES ASK MEDIA NOT TO REPORT VIOLENCE

Authorities in Kabul, Afghanistan have asked broadcasters to refrain from broadcasting any reports of violence in the strife-torn country on election day, Thursday. The Taliban and their allies have vowed to disrupt the elections and have threatened those who take part in them. NATO forces are being withdrawn from combat areas and are being assigned to protect voters. On Tuesday the Foreign Ministry asked news organizations not to broadcast "any incidence of violence" on election day "to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people." National Public Radio observed that while the English version said that media "are requested" to follow the guidelines, the Afghan version said that broadcasting news from "terrorist attacks" was "strictly forbidden." Penalties for doing so were not spelled out. But Rachel Reid, the Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, told NPR that press freedom is enshrined in the Afghan constitution. "Afghans have a right to know about the security threats that they face and make their own assessments about security," she said.

SONY TO PAY FOR OLD TV SETS IN U.K.

Taking a cue from the British version of America's "Cash for Clunkers" program (in Britain it's called "Cash for Bangers") Sony said today (Wednesday) that it will give its U.K. customers as much as $250 off the price of a new TV set if they turn in their old models. "The campaign itself offers customers the advantages of swapping old for new rather than simply throwing away -- encouraging old televisions to be responsibly disposed of," Sony U.K. spokesman Matt Coombe said in a statement. The worldwide recession has hit sales of new television sets and other home-electronics items particularly hard. Last month Sony reported a loss of $390 million in the quarter ended June 30.

FOX HOLDING FOCUS GROUPS ON ABDUL'S REPLACEMENT

In the latest twist to the story that won't die, RadarOnline.com is reporting that producers of American Idol and Fox will be conducting focus groups during the audition episodes of the series to see how audiences react to the guest judges. One unnamed TV executive told the website, "If Paula [Abdul] consistently scores far higher than any other person in her chair, they will feel compelled to make her an offer she can't refuse." The source said that the testing will help the producers determine how Abdul's absence from the show will affect it with viewers.

CNN COMMENTATOR ROBERT NOVAK DIES AT 78

Conservative commentator and columnist Robert Novak died Tuesday of a malignant brain tumor in Washington at age 78. He had been a fixture on cable news from its beginning, appearing on CNN in its first week of operations in 1980. In 2003 he identified Valerie Plame as a Central Intelligence Agency operative in an article that criticized her husband, ambassador Joseph Wilson. The article touched off a federal investigation that led to the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for lying about divulging the information about Plame.