TALKS STRIKING OUT?
A CEO of one of the big six media companies negotiating with the Writers Guild of America has told entertainment reporter Alex Ben Block that if the industry applied the writers' latest proposals to each of the other deals it will have to make with actors' and directors' guilds, "we would lose money every time we streamed a show over the Internet." The unnamed mogul is quoted on Block's Hollywood Today website as calculating that the flat fees applied across the board to the three unions would amount to about 150 percent of the producer/distributor costs. He accuses the WGA of attempting to "put in place a whole new set of [residual] costs that insure (sic) [writers] are paid whether the [Internet] project makes money or not." Meanwhile, today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times reported that more than 300 WGA members who are also members of the Directors Guild of America are urging the DGA to hold off on their own talks with the studios until their own dispute is settled. There has been much speculation that the DGA would likely make a deal with the studios that could undercut the writers' demands.
STRIKE HITS LENO, LETTERMAN HARDEST
Although ratings for NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno are down 19 percent since the strike of the Writers Guild of America began last month, ratings for CBS's The Late Show With David Letterman are actually up 4 percent, the New York Times ob served today, citing figures from Nielsen Research. The newspaper noted that the financial impact of the strike for NBC and CBS has also been "largely muted" by the fact that the two networks are saving more than $1 million a week in production costs while still taking in revenue from advertisers for the repeats. The newspaper did not indicate whether the networks have changed their ad fees for the two shows since the strike began. However, the strike may be having the greatest financial toll on the two hosts, Leno and Letterman, who have been paying their nonwriting staffs $150,000-$250,000 a week. (It was not clear whether the writers are receiving residuals for the reruns under the old contract provisions.)
"TORTURE" TAPES DESTROYED BY CIA TO AVOID BROADCAST
The CIA destroyed video of suspected terrorists being subjected to waterboarding and other coercive techniques in order to prevent the video from falling into the hands of the news media, published reports said today (Friday). In a statement sent to CIA employees on Thursday, director Michael Hayden said that had the videos been published or broadcast, they would have permitted "identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaida and its sympathizers." Britain's Guardian newspaper said that Hayden's message was dispatched after he learned that the New York Times planned to report today on the videotapes' destruction. The Washington Post also reported on the matter today.
MURDOCH SON JAMES PLACED IN SUCCESSOR LINE
In what was largely seen as a major step in a transfer of power between father and son, James Murdoch, the younger son of Rupert Murdoch, has been named head of News Corp's Asian and European operations, a move that will put him in charge of most of its overseas broadcasting, print and Internet divisions. He will step down as CEO of Britain's BSkyB satellite TV service but replace his father as chairman. BSkyB's finance director, Jeremy Darroch, will take over as its new CEO.
MURDOCH IS WATCHING YOU
An interior designer who apparently thought that Rupert Murdoch is the owner of Australia's Fairfax Media placed some 50 floor-to-ceiling glass pillars featuring Murdoch's image in Fairfax's new offices in Sydney, which opened Thursday. Fairfax is an arch rival of Murdoch's News Corp. It publishes the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review and the Sun-Herald. Bruce Wolpe, a Fairfax spokesman, facetiously told The Australian newspaper, a News Corp publication: "His image is gazing fondly on the newsroom of today, which he has talked about in such rapturous terms, and a vote is being taken now as to whether it is the best place for him or whether we should find another location."