NEWS EXECS PLAN FOR A FUNERAL AND AN EXECUTION

Broadcast news executives were thrashing out plans for final coverage of the deaths of two former world leaders -- the funeral of Gerald Ford and the impending execution of Saddam Hussein. Coverage of the Ford funeral was due to begin on Saturday with the arrival of the casket at the Capitol Rotunda. All three network anchors are due to cover the funeral, including NBC's Brian Williams, ABC's Charles Gibson and CBS's Katie Couric. On Tuesday, the three networks plan to cover the memorial service for the former president at the National Cathedral. By contrast, questions about how to cover Saddam's execution, reportedly due to take place as early as today, appeared more politically complicated. Iraqi officials said every minute of their former leader's last minutes will be recorded from the moment that they take over custody from U.S. authorities. It seemed certain that much of the video, including the hanging itself, would be shown on Iraqi TV and on Arab television generally in the region. It was also expected to be quickly available on YouTube. But it was not known how much of the actual execution -- if any -- would be shown on U.S. television. The TVNewser site quoted an unnamed insider as saying, "I'm sure every network has had their standards and practices discussions about this already."

CNN AIRS FORD'S VIEWS ON IRAQ

A never-before-aired interview with the late President Ford in which he criticized President Bush's decision to invade Iraq was broadcast Thursday on CNN. In the interview, conducted by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward two years ago and aired on Larry King's show, Ford said, "I don't think if I had been president on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don't think I would have wanted the Iraqi war." Woodward said that Ford had insisted that the interview be embargoed until "I did a book on him or Ford died." Woodward did not elaborate on why the former president did not want to have his views about the war made public.

AT&T FALLS BEHIND IN ROLLING OUT TV SERVICE

AT&T, which plans to offer TV service in areas where it is upgrading its phone lines to fiber-optic cable, has not been able to reach its goal of doing so in 15 markets this year. With four Indiana markets added on Thursday, AT&T is only able to boast of bringing its U-verse TV service to 11 markets, and many of those only represent a portion of the targeted market. Nevertheless, the phone company maintained that it is proceeding apace to expand the service to 19 million homes by the end of 2008.

ESPN SCORES TOP CABLE RATINGS OF ALL TIME

The 17 most-watched television shows on cable in 2006 were the 17 Monday Night Football games televised by ESPN, the cable sports network said Thursday, citing ratings by Nielsen Research. The games averaged 12.33 million viewers,with more than 109 million tuning in at some point during the season, ESPN said. No other series in cable TV history has ever captured such ratings, it concluded.

The top ten shows of last week according to Nielsen Research (delayed because of the holiday):

1. NFL Sunday overrun, CBS, 10.3/24; 2. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 9.5/15; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.4/14; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.2/14; 5. CSI: NY, CBS, 8.1/14; 6. Identity (Monday), NBC, 7.6/11; 7. Shark, CBS, 7.1/12; 8. NCIS, CBS, 7.0/11; 8. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.0/11; 10. 60 Minutes, CBS, 6.8/16.

COURT-TV SENDS OUT $30 XMAS GIFTS TO REPORTERS

The New York gossip site Gawker reported today (Friday) that it had received a debit card loaded with $30 from Court TV for the holidays. "We have no doubt we'll feel indebted to them forever. So might the folks who take the money, of course," the website, edited by Alex Balk, commented. Accompanying the debit card was this note from Court TV: "We hope you enjoy your smartOne Visa gift card. It's easy to use, is preloaded with $30 and has been preactivated for your convenience. That means you're all set to use the card for whatever you want (whether it's naughty or nice). ..."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.