THE WAR OVER WAR

Some PBS stations are planning to air an edited version of the Ken Burns WWII documentary The War, concerned over the possible reaction of the FCC to profanities uttered by soldiers in the footage, Broadcasting & Cable reported Monday. Their decision has encountered the anger of the American Civil Liberties Union, the trade publication indicated. "To impede the First Amendment rights of those who fought and died for those very rights is reprehensible," said ACLU Washington legislative director Caroline Fredrickson in a statement. "Our public broadcasters should not be afraid to air fourteen hours of an educational and fact-based documentary because of a handful of profanities. Images of the brutality of war are far more disturbing than any four letter word." The ACLU noted that the stations' decision points up the "chilling effect" that the FCC's recent rulings on indecent language have had on television writers and producers.

COUNTDOWN: DOWN FOR THE COUNT?

Keith Olbermann's Countdown will probably be counted out of contention for the pre-game slot preceding NBC's Football Night in America and Sunday Night Football, several analysts agreed Monday as overnight ratings indicated that the show attracted just 4.3 million viewers, putting it in last place among the four major networks. (The football game itself drew 10.3 million in its first half hour.) Although Olbermann had said that he did not intend to alter Countdown for its broadcast network showcase, some critics maintained that that's exactly what he did, watering down his often hard-hitting liberal commentaries.

NIELSEN DISBANDS SEPARATE HISPANIC PANEL

Nielsen Media Research has decided to dump the National Hispanic People Meter panel that provides ratings of Hispanic households. Henceforth, it said, the ratings will be provided by Nielsen's National People Meter panel, the group that provides ratings for all other channels. "This will put national Spanish-language television on a level playing field with English-language television, providing a common ratings number for all national networks," Nielsen said in a statement. And, in an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, Danielle Gonzales, managing director of the Chicago-based ad agency Tapestry, which specializes in Latino media, commented: "This is a turning point -- the television industry has acknowledged the strength of the Hispanic population."

CALLS GROW FOR CBS TO CANCEL KID NATION

Controversy over CBS's Kid Nation continues to snowball, with two prominent entertainment columnists entering the fray today (Tuesday). Barry Garron in The Hollywood Reporter urged CBS to cancel the show. "This has all gone far enough," he wrote. "It's time for CBS to cut its losses, apologize for an idea that was well-intentioned but ill-considered and pull Kid Nation from the schedule." Both Garron and Deadline Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke noted that the network seemed to go out of its way to avoid legal hassles, requiring parents to sign a 22-page contract, filming on closed sets in New Mexico, which has less restrictive laws than, say, California, and preventing parents of kids who participated in the series from speaking freely about it by threatening to enforce a non-disclosure clause. Finke concluded her column by urging a Congressional investigation of "this latest TV scandal because it involves children." On the other hand, Alex Koroknay-Palicz, executive director of the National Youth Rights Association, told Britain's Guardian newspaper, "This show is challenging a social taboo that needs to be challenged ... that kids need to be kids and need to be sheltered from life, which isn't the case at all."

SALES BOOM FOR HDTV SETS, BUT WHERE'S THE PROFIT?

Consumer electronics stores may be doing a booming business in big-screen, high-definition TV sets these days, but they are seeing profit margins drop as a result of a supply glut and intense competition from mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Costco, the New York Times reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper cited research by iSuppli indicating that the price of 42-inch HDTVs has declined 23 percent to $1,655 from $2,140 last Christmas. The newspaper noted that Best Buy recently attributed a 6-percent drop in its gross profit rate in large part to "promotional environment in home video." Still, the price of big-screen HDTV sets remains beyond the means of many consumers, and, the Times observed, there are signs that sales are slowing. Morgan Stanley analyst Greg Melich told the Times: "For the past few months, growth in the total TV market has been zero or negative, because demand is not there at these price points."

NBC BUYS OVERSEAS HALLMARK CHANNELS

NBC Universal has confirmed that it has purchased the owner of the overseas Hallmark Channels for a reported $350 million. The owner, Sparrowhawk Media, had been acquired by an investment group just last April for $250 million. In a statement, NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker said, "This is a perfect strategic investment for NBC Universal and illustrates our commitment to growing our company internationally. It is another step, among several we will take in the next year, to transform our entire portfolio, with an eye toward high-growth areas."

Brian B.