SAG FREE TO TALK WITH STUDIOS

A Los Angeles judge on Thursday rejected a legal bid by Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg and three other board members to overturn the union board's dismissal by "written assent" of Doug Allen as national executive director and its appointment of a task force to restart negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. L.A. Superior Court Judge James Chalfont said that SAG's "bylaws permit the board to do exactly what it did." Rosenberg had claimed otherwise and had sought a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the task force from restarting negotiations with the studios But while the decision would appear to allow negotiations with the studios to proceed, Rosenberg is expected to appeal, and legal challenges could delay the revival of talks for weeks and possibly for months, some analysts indicated. But the Los Angeles Times reported today (Friday) that talks are expected to resume on February 17 and 18, according to sources familiar with the talks. In a commentary about the legal battle -- which pits the president of a union against the union itself -- entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel noted that an "obvious question" is who is paying the legal fees? The union, he notes is paying for its defense, "but I have no idea if the plaintiffs are paying their own fees and costs or if someone else is."

NETWORK-OWNED STATIONS WON'T SWITCH UNTIL JUNE

Although the FCC said Wednesday that some television stations, faced with the costs of keeping two transmitters operating -- one for analog, the other for digital broadcasting -- would be able apply for permission from the commission to turn off the analog transmitters before the new June 12 switchover date, all network-owned stations will continue analog broadcasting until that date. FCC acting chairman Michael Copps said that he had received pledges from the networks that their owned stations would wait until the new cut-off date. Public broadcasting stations, however, indicated that about half of them would make the switch on the earlier February 17 date.

SCHIEFFER RETURNS AS NEWS ANCHOR

Bob Schieffer, who acted as interim anchor of the CBS Evening News between the time Dan Rather departed and Katie Couric arrived -- and posted better ratings than either of them -- will again be anchoring a newscast, only this time a weekly one and this time on the Internet. Schieffer has been named to anchor a weekly 15-minute newscast, Washington Unplugged, launching today (Friday), that will summarize and analyze the week's news, focusing primarily on the national political scene. "We will aim to get at some of the things that tell you how Washington really works_some of the things that don't always make it into our broadcasts," Schieffer said in a statement. Viewers can also submit questions in advance to interview subjects appearing on the show by emailing [email protected]

NEWS CORP REPORTS $6.41 BILLION LOSS

News Corp on Thursday became the latest media conglomerate to report dreadful earnings in the last quarter, reporting a net loss of $6.41 billion versus a profit of $832 million in the year-ago quarter. It was hardest hit in its broadcast network unit, which saw net income falling to $18 million from $245 million during the same quarter last year, a 93-percent decrease. On the other hand, Fox News, which covered the election and its aftermath during the quarter, saw its operating income rise 32 percent to $428 million. Speaking during a conference call with analysts and reporters, News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch blamed the downturn on "the worst global economic crisis since News Corp was formed 50 years ago." Nevertheless, he reassured investors, "Every time there's a recession, advertising always comes back stronger. I'm not being flippant; I'm not saying we'll return to record levels. But all is not lost."

COMING SOON: AN APPLE TV SET (MAYBE)

Within two years, Apple may enter the television market, producing a set with a built in digital recorder that could sync with personal computers, iPhones and iPods wirelessly, according to a report by Gene Muster of investment bank Piper Jafray. In effect, it would produce a TV set with all the settop boxes built in. In the past, Apple has denied similar reports. The company is expected to usher in the all-in-one TV by producing an updated Apple TV settop box later this year that will include a cable attachment and new DVR software for recording programs off the air. "Apple has indicated that it only wants to participate in categories it feels it can make a difference (and win) in, and like the smart phone market, we believe connected TVs fit the company's criteria," the report said.