FOX POTENT DURING NOVEMBER SWEEPS

The presidential election came only a few days into the November sweeps, but its political coverage drew so many viewers during those early days of the month that it was able to claim second place in the ratings among all cable TV channels, tying with USA Networks and topped only by ESPN, which drew big numbers for college and professional football. Fox's ratings were up a whopping 75 percent from November 2007. Nevertheless, CNN claimed that it had bested Fox among viewers 25-54 total day. (Fox triumphed in that category during primetime.) MSNBC had something to boast about, too, as its Countdown With Keith Olbermann ad The Rachel Maddow Show beat their CNN rivals in the younger demo.

CNN DISTANCES ITSELF FROM MILES

After having lost his job as co-host of CNN's American Morning last year, Miles O'Brien is being dropped by the cable news network altogether. O'Brien, who had earned much respect as the chief technology and environment correspondent for CNN, had spent 17 years with the cable network -- an "epoch" in the television news business, O'Brien said in a statement. CNN said: "Miles has made many contributions to CNN over the years. He is a terrific reporter and we wish him all the best. Also losing their jobs will be six producers for CNN's science and technology unit, which is being shut down.

KNIGHT RIDER SIDESWIPED

Industry observers who expressed surprise when NBC announced in October that it would order a full season of Knight Rider despite its lackluster ratings were likely even more surprised when the network said that it will produce only 17 episodes and yank the show from its schedule on February 25. The following week, NBC said, it will present a "new show ... to be announced soon." NBC has continued to see an exodus of viewers this season (except for its Monday Night Football fans). Knight Rider is not expected to return to the NBC schedule.

ER TO BE TAKEN OFF LIFE SUPPORT

NBC said Wednesday that it will air the series finale of its long-running medical drama ER on March 12, 2009. The demise of the show that once dominated the 10:00 p.m. hour was mentioned in passing with a slew of other NBC announcements that included: The Office will be have the honor of of following next year's Super Bowl; Celebrity Apprentice will debut on March 1. Kings, which replaces E.R. will debut March 19. Surprising some industry observers, two shows that the network had planned to begin broadcasting around midseason are not mentioned in the company's announcement. Washington Post columnist Lisa de Moraes noted that the show, The Philanthropist and Merlin, may not debut until next season.

ISLAMIC GROUP PRAISES -- THE SIMPSONS???

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which ordinarily is critical of the representation of Muslims and Arabs in films and on television, has congratulated Fox Television for last Sunday's episode of The Simpsons, in which a Muslim family moving into Springfield faces prejudice. (Homer suspects them of being terrorists while Bart befriends a boy who is bullied by classmates.) The CAIR letter, sent Wednesday, said that the episode, titled "Mypods and Boomsticks," one of four entire Simpsons shows posted online at http://tinyurl.com/6jgq4y, "brought to light how Americans can work toward mutual respect and inclusion by getting to know their neighbors." CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said, "Fox and [Simpsons creator] Matt Groening are to be congratulated for tackling the disturbing phenomenon of Islamophobia."

MEDIA SHOULD NOT CALL TERRORISTS "ISLAMIC," GROUP SAYS

In an apparent reference to recent reports about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the international Organization of the Islamic Conference, has charged that "some circles" had attempted to associate "such evil" with Islam, which, the group said, "condemns, scorns and outlaws" terrorist deeds. The attacks, the OIC said, were the acts of "deviant and fanatic individuals." It added that reporters "who refer to the perpetrators as acting on behalf of Islam help them by offering them justification, anchor and premise that they don't have or deserve." However, Robert Spencer, who oversees the website JihadWatch.org, which has been called an "Internet hate site" by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center: "[The OIC] is trying to hoodwink the U.N. and the West into passing speech codes that will forbid non-Muslim analysts from connecting any act of violence or terror to Islam, even when the perpetrators themselves make that connection. This will render the West mute and defenseless in the face of continuing Islamic jihadist aggression."