NBC NEWS COURTS NEW DEBATE OVER STING

Months before it even hits the air, an NBC News series about alleged genocide perpetrators living in the U.S. is attracting a flurry of controversy. According to reports appearing in the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun, the network attempted to perform a recent sting operation at Goucher College in Towson MD, where it had hoped to snag Leoopold Munyakazi, a visiting professor of French from Rwanda, as one of the perpetrators. The NBC news crew was accompanied by a Rwandan prosecutor, who has charged that Munyakazi participated in the genocide in 1994 in which hundreds of thousands of Rwanda's Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutu militia, Munyakazi denies the charges, insisting in an interview with the Times that he "saved a number of people." Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth told the Times that he had called an NBC lawyer to express his concern "that a journalist was making false accusations, due to some extent to his close collaboradtion with the Rwandan government." Goucher president Sanford Ungar, a renowned journalist himself, said that he was visited by the NBC crew and the Rwandan prosecutor who laid out the charges against Munyakazi. Ungar, a onetime co-anchor of NPR's All Things Considered, questioned the ethics of that approach. "If the prosecutor has evidence or has concerns he wants to present, why is he doing it in the company of NBC News?" he asked.

IDOL TOPS, BUT CBS WINS OVERALL

Fox may have scored the top two spots in the ratings with its unstoppable American Idol last week, but CBS continued to produce the most appealing shows overall -- including its telecast of the 51st edition of the Grammy awards, which averaged 19.1 million viewers on Sunday night. Old mainstays like 60 Minutes, Two and a Half Men, NCIS, and CSI: Miami, also placed high in the ratings -- as did a rerun of its new hit, The Mentalist. Meanwhile, NBC seemed to benefit little from all of the promos it aired for its programs during last week's Super Bowl telecast -- which, on its own, lifted the network to No. 1 in the rankings. It was back to last place, without a single show in the top 10.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 14.8/23; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 14.7/22; 3. Grammy Awards, CBS, 11.2/18; 4. 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.4/17; 5. CSI: Miami, CBS, 10.2/17; 6. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10/15; 7. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 9.8/15; 8. The Mentalist, CBS, 9/14; 9. House, Fox, 8.8/13; 10. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 8.6/13; 10. (Tie) NCIS, CBS, 8.6/13.

49.5 MILLION WATCHED OBAMA'S NEWS CONFERENCE

Barack Obama's first news conference broadcast during primetime on Monday attracted 49.5 million viewers, who tuned in to the four major broadcast networks, plus Univision, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, according to Nielsen. While a huge number, it was only the third highest-rated presidential news conference in history, beaten by President Clinton's first conference which drew 64.3 million on broadcast and cable networks and President Bush's post-9/11 press conference with drew 64.8 million.

MANY TV STATIONS WON'T DELAY SWITCH TO DIGITAL

More than a third of all U.S. television stations will not delay the transition from analog to digital and plan to begin digital broadcasts on February 17 or earlier, the FCC said Tuesday. While Congress pushed back the mandatory cut-off date to June 12, stations were permitted to file notices with the FCC if they desired to switch early. The FCC indicated that while most of the requests for waivers will be honored, it could bar some stations from switching early "in the event that the commission determines that analog termination on February 17 by a station or group of stations is contrary to the public interest."

AMERICANS DEPEND ON TV FOR NEWS ABOUT ECONOMY

Some 48 percent of the public rely on television as its primary source for news about the current economic crisis, according to the Behavior Research Center in a study conducted for the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Fewer than half that number -- 21 percent -- rely on newspapers for news about the economy, while only 16 percent cite the Internet and 8 percent, radio. (The remaining 7 percent ticked off "other.") The Reynolds group is headed by Chicago Tribune financial columnist and former CNBC anchor Andrew Leckey, who said in a statement that the study indicates that Americans mostly make financial decisions based on the information they receive from the media, "which underscores the need for accurate, quality reporting on the economy."