STUDIOS WALK OUT OF STRIKE TALKS

Hopes of a resolution of the Hollywood writers' strike before the holidays were dashed Friday night as studio negotiators angrily walked out of talks, accusing negotiators for the writers of being incompetent and self-serving. In a statement, the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers said: "The WGA organizers sitting across the table from us have never concluded even one industry accord." It added that the WGA negotiators were determined to advance their "personal agendas at the expense of working writers and every other working person who depends on our industry for their livelihoods." Ironically, talks appeared to collapse not over issues related to the writers' demands for increased payment for Internet distribution and DVD sales -- which were said to be the primary issues in the strike -- but over the writers' demands concerning reality TV shows and animated fare. In a statement released Friday night, WGA negotiator John Bowman said, "We remain ready and willing to negotiate, no matter how intransigent our bargaining partners are, because the stakes are simply too high. ... We were prepared to counter their proposal tonight, and when any of them are ready to return to the table, we're here, ready to make a fair deal." But in an interview with Daily Variety Bowman added, "We wound up being engaged in fake negotiations. I suspect they're trying to do this so that writers will suffer during the holiday season." Analysts have concluded that much now depends on whether early negotiations begin with the Directors Guild of America. A deal on the Internet -- or "new media," as the negotiators call it -- between the producers and directors would likely (but, as Variety pointed out today, not necessarily) set a precedent for similar deals with actors and, in the end, writers as well.

WINFREY MOVIE MAKES ABC'S DAY

The Oprah Winfrey-produced TV movie For One More Day performed strongly on ABC Sunday night, capturing an average 8.3 average and a 13 share, to beat the competition, including NBC's Sunday Night Football, between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. ABC would have taken the primetime crown for the night as well, except for a 20-minute overrun of CBS's NFL coverage of the New England Patriots-Pittsburgh Steelers game at 7:00 p.m., which gave the network an average 12.9/21 for the hour.

LIBERTARIAN 20/20 CHAT POSTED ON WEBSITE A WEEK EARLY

Nearly a week before it is scheduled to air on ABC's 20/20, an interview with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has been posted on the program's website. Paul, who generally espouses a libertarian viewpoint on most issues, is interviewed by 20/20 cohost John Stossel, who likewise often takes libertarian positions on controversial issues. In an email message to viewers today (Monday), Stossel wrote: "Paul is the most-Googled presidential contender and the most-watched candidate on YouTube. He set a GOP fundraising record by raising $4.2 million in a single day, mostly with online donations. ... With such an Internet presence, we decided to post our interview online."

DATELINE SET TO MAKE PROMINENT RETURN

NBC's news magazine Dateline, which has been virtually absent from the network's schedule this season for the first time, is scheduled to return on Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. with a one-hour edition and on December 21 and 28 at 9:00 p.m. with two-hour editions. The Dateline shows will replace programming affected by the writers' strike. The Los Angeles Times recently observed that the producers of the program are gearing up to produce as many as three hours a week of Dateline programs after the first of the year.

WERE THEY "TORTURE" TAPES?

In reporting last week on the CIA destruction of videotapes showing waterboarding and other controversial techniques used in the questioning of terror suspects, most news media shied away from using the term "torture," Editor and Publisher observed today (Monday). The Associated Press, it noted, used the term "enhanced interrogation" in its report, putting the term in quotes. The New York Times referred to "severe interrogation methods," while Reuters called them "severe interrogation techniques." However, on NBC, correspondent Andrea Mitchell referred to "waterboarding, simulated drowning, widely viewed as torture." CBS's David Martin noted that the CIA itself has claimed that its interrogation techniques were all legal, but, he added, "with the tapes now destroyed, there is no way to verify that claim."

ECHOSTAR TO DISH IT OUT

Denver-based Satellite TV operator EchoStar Communications, which operates the DISH home satellite service, said Friday that it is changing its name to DISH Network Corp. In an SEC filing, EchoStar said that the new name will reflect the actual focus of the company and noted that the name change will only affect its principal business. Other parts of the business, it said, will be spun off and retain the EchoStar name.

KING WORLD CO-FOUNDER DEAD AT 63

Roger M. King,who with his brother Michael, created King World Productions the company that syndicated such shows as Oprah, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, died Saturday in Boca Raton, FL after suffering a stroke at his home the previous day. He was 63. In an interview with today's (Monday) New York Times, industry analyst Harold Vogel said, "Roger King was a master salesman in a market that was ripe for innovation" after regulations in the 1970s limited networks' ownership of the programs they broadcast. In 2000, he and his brother sold King World to CBS for $2.5 billion. In a statement today, CBS chief Les Moonves said, "Television has lost a legend, a truly original executive with an unparalleled combination of business acumen, passion and personality. CBS has lost a colleague and a good friend."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.