THE MURDOCH DYNASTY: WHO'S THE HEIR?

The departure of Peter Chernin as president and COO of News Corp is being viewed as another sign that the company chairman, Rupert Murdoch, is further paving the way for one of his children -- probably James -- to succeed him. Analysts are suggesting that it is unlikely that Murdoch will replace Chernin -- or that any other powerful media executive would accept the job if Murdoch tried. "The problem is that the top job is going to be closed to anyone whose last name is not Murdoch," Mathew Horsman, a prominent London media strategist, told the London Independent. Meanwhile, speculation is rising that Murdoch may attempt to bring his daughter Elisabeth back into the fold, possibly by buying her production company Shine, which acquired NBC chief Ben Silverman's Reveille last year. Michael Wolff, who wrote the Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns the News, told the Independent that such a buyout represented a "credible plan." But, writing in Fortune magazine, Richard Siklos observed that Shine is currently eligible for the 25 percent of program budgets that Britain's largest broadcasters are required to spend with U.K. independent producers. Citing two people close to Murdoch, Siklos said that this pool of funding accounts for a large part of Shine's business. Nevertheless, reports indicated that Elisabeth attended a board meeting of News Corp Tuesday as an "observer." Meanwhile, elder son Lachlan, once regarded as the heir apparent, but who split with his father in 2005, is reportedly content running his own businesses in Australia. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times media columnist Patrick Goldstein quoted several Murdoch watchers as saying that Chernin has plenty of options in his future. "With all the turmoil in today's media world, every time a company's stock crumbles or a mogul like Redstone or Jobs goes home sick, you'll see Chernin's name at the top of every financial analyst's successor wish list."

TRYOUT FOR TV SHOW BECOMES BROADWAY HIT

While Will Ferrell's limited run with his Broadway show You're Welcome America, was initially regarded as a trial run for an HBO special, it has become an enormous hit, setting house records in ticket sales at the Cort Theatre, where it is playing. Although HBO is due to televise the show live on March 14 from the Cort (it closes the next night), the show, in which Ferrell spoofs George W. Bush, took in as astounding $871,127 last week.

ASIAN GAYS ANGERED BY OSCAR CENSORSHIP

STAR-TV, an Asian satellite TV service controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, censored Academy Awards speeches by Sean Penn and writer Dustin Lance Black when they referred to gays and lesbians, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Although the words were not deleted during the live telecast, which aired during the day on Monday, the evening repeat, which was transmitted to 53 countries, removed the words "gay" and "lesbian." The AP quoted Pang Khee Teik, a Malaysian arts commentator as saying in a message to media organizations, "As a gay man, I am truly offended. ... Stop censoring the words that describe who I am." But Jannie Poon, a spokeswoman for STAR based in Hong Kong, responded that the company has "a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of all our markets into consideration."

OSCARS CAN'T GIVE ABC A WEEKLY WIN

As usual, ABC's coverage of the Academy Awards was the second-highest-rated telecast of the year, drawing 36.3 million viewers. Although the figure was up about 4 million over last year, it was nevertheless the ceremony's third-smallest audience in history. Moreover, it was not enough to give ABC a win for the week. That honor went to Fox, thanks to strong numbers for American Idol and House. It averaged 11.8 million viewers with a 6.9 rating and an 11 share, while ABC averaged 11.1 million, with a 6.8/11. CBS, the usual weekly winner, fell to third with 10.2 million viewers and a 6.4/10. NBC, meanwhile, remained far behind with 6.2 million and a 3.9/6.

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

1. Academy Awards, ABC, 20.6/31; 2. Oscar's Red Carpet 2009, ABC, 14.5/23; 3. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 14.3/21; 4. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 14.1/22; 5. The Mentalist, CBS, 11.3/17; 6. NCIS, CBS, 11/17; 7. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 10.4/16; 8. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 10/15; 9. Criminal Minds, CBS, 9.2/14; 10. House, Fox, 8.5/13.