AFTRA TO PROBE KID NATION

The American Federation of Television and Radio Actors (AFTRA), the primary union representing television performers, has joined the controversy over CBS's upcoming reality series Kid Nation, which has been accused of violating child labor laws. AFTRA said that it will launch its own probe of the series to see whether it violated the terms of its contract with the network. (The kids who participated in the series are not union members; however, the host, the announcer, and perhaps others are.) "We will take all legal and moral steps available to protect the rights of the performers and children on this program," Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, the union's national executive director, said in a statement. Meanwhile Paul Petersen, who played Jeff on The Donna Reed Show from 1958-1966 and now heads the watchdog group A Minor Consideration, has called the Kid Nation production "ghastly and a shame." In an interview with today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, Petersen said, "I've never seen anything like this, in terms of wanton disregard for the lives of children."

HAS THE STING BEEN STUNG?

NBC Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" has filmed only one sting operation this year (versus seven last year) and the network is considering dropping the ratings-making series in which alleged sexual predators are lured to reveal themselves in front of hidden cameras, the New York Times reported today (Monday). According to the newspaper, the controversy over tactics used to capture the predators on camera have so alienated some advertisers that only six national commercials appeared in the most recent Predator episode last July 25. Andy Donchin, director for national broadcast for the ad agency Carat USA, said, "We're all concerned with what content we're associating ourselves with." NBC said that it has set up "an unofficial unit" to work with correspondent Chris Hansen on other projects incorporating the words "To Catch" in the title.

SOUTH PARK CREATORS LAND $75-MILLION DEAL

In a deal that today's (Monday) New York Times said may be worth as much as $75 million to South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the two will set up a production house in Culver City, CA to spread South Park material across the Internet, mobile phones, and video games. The deal calls for Viacom, which had previously forced YouTube to remove Viacom's copyrighted material from its site -- including clips from South Park -- to split ad revenues from the new Internet programming with Stone and Parker, an arrangement that the Times described as a precedent. MTV Networks President Doug Herzog, who, as head of Comedy Central, brought South Park to cable, told the Times: "If this is seen as a bold stroke, all the better, because it's going to take bold thinking to move ahead."

GODFATHER OF INTERNET PREDICTS DEMISE OF TV

Dr. Vint Cerf, regarded as the "godfather of the Internet" for helping to develop the early technology that made the Internet possible, has forecast that the time is near when virtually all television shows will be delivered online. "You're still going to need live television for certain things, like news, sporting events and emergencies," he said at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, "but increasingly it is going to be almost like the iPod, where you download content to look at later." Responding to predictions by some scientists that the increasing use of the Internet to download huge video files could eventually lead to technical gridlock, Cerf said that he heard similar arguments when the Internet first emerged. "In the intervening 30 years it's increased a million times over ... We're far from exhausting the capacity." Meanwhile, almost as if it were responding to Cerf's prediction, Sony today (Monday) unveiled its first all-in-one PC/TV set capable of displaying high-definition programs on a 22-inch screen and playing Blu-ray discs. In a statement, Sony marketing exec Mike Abary said, "It's the ultimate showstopper for media lovers who appreciate hi-def performance and cutting-edge technology in a saving space design."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.