HOW TO AIR AN EXECUTION?

As images of the hanging of Saddam Hussein quickly surfaced on the Internet, U.S. television news executives wrestled with the question of how much of the video should be broadcast. Initially the Iraqi government refused to make any of the official tape of the execution public, and the TV networks duly interrupted scheduled programming, reported that it had taken place and focused on reaction to it. Then, however, a video apparently taken with a cell phone by a guard or witness made its appearance on Iraqi television, showing the noose being placed around Saddam's neck, angry shouting between him and the witnesses being exchanged, then his body falling through the trap door of the gallows. The two major cable news networks, Fox News and CNN, aired only short clips from the video, but the TV broadcast networks aired only stills from it. Then, a second, more graphic video turned up and was quickly distributed on the Internet. Reporting on the newer video, the Los Angeles Times commented, "Its existence ... spotlighted the challenge that faces news organizations as Internet sites continue to supplant the traditional media as a source of information." The New York Times quoted David Rhodes, vice president for news at Fox News, as saying that the network chose to air the new video because of the verbal exchanges between Saddam and onlookers. Most of the other major television networks followed suit, airing portions of the new video but not the moment of the release of the trap door. NBC did not air any of it. The network's news president, Steve Capus, told the New York Times, "I firmly believe our viewers had a very strong sense of what took place."

FAMILY GROUPS BLAST NBC FOR POSTING UNBLEEPED SKIT ON WEB

Some conservative family groups are furious over NBC's decision to release an unbleeped version of a Saturday Night Live boy-band parody, "D**k in a Box," on YouTube and its own website. In an interview with TV Week, Daniel Weiss of Focus on the Family, said that the effect of NBC's action was to provide a bleeped version for adults while making the uncensored version available on the Internet, where it would most likely be seen by children. Melissa Caldwell, director of programs for the Parents Television Council, the organization that has instigated most of the complaints to the FCC about indecent programs, had a similar reaction. "It's an end run around parents and they are putting it in a Web environment occupied and used by children and teens," she said. Meanwhile, the trade publication said that NBC and the other major networks are considering using the Internet to air content that they are barred from airing on the public airwaves. Joe Laslo of Jupiter Research was quoted as saying, "A year ago when a Saturday Night Live clip was posted on the Web, the reaction was, bring out the lawyers. Now it's an end run around the censors that creates amazingly good buzz for the show. NBC has come a long way."

FOOTBALL SCORES BIG FOR NBC

Getting back into the football business has done wonders for NBC's bottom line beyond the increased ratings and ad revenue that Sunday Night Football has fetched, according to NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol. In an interview with Mediaweek magazine, Ebersol called SNF the "cornerstone of the primetime turnaround at NBC" and pointed out that the network's new hit Heroes got a big boost by being promoted during the NFL telecasts three weeks before the show was launched. Ebersol also pointed out that the NFL's flexible scheduling system for the final games of the season has resulted in increases during weeks 14-16 of 39 percent, 21 percent and 32 percent respectively over last year's comparable weeks, when NFL football aired Monday nights on ABC.

DICK CLARK COUNTS DOWN ANOTHER YEAR

His once slick and cheerful voice still suffering from the effects of the stroke that felled him in 2003, Dick Clark returned to ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve for the second year in a row to count down the moments until the start of 2007. Appearing in a TV studio as cameras captured the festivities outside in Times Square, Clark remarked, "It's still the biggest party in the world."

CBS WON'T REPLACE BRADLEY

CBS cut off speculation about who will replace the late Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes by announcing over the weekend that no one will -- at least not during the current season. Executive producer Jeff Fager said that Bradley's workload will be spread around among the other regular correspondents and contributors Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper. "It's a long-term project to find the next full-time person who can show the abilities that are expected of a 60 Minutes correspondent," Fager told the Associated Press.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.