SAG EMBROILED IN NEW WRANGLE

Instead of seeking a strike-authorization vote from members of the Screen Actors Guild, union leaders now intend to submit the final proposal of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to the union's membership with a "neutral" recommendation, SAG President Allen Rosenberg said on Thursday. Such a tactic had been suggested previously, notably by Deadline Hollywood Daily's Nikki Finke, who has tended to support the so-called SAG hardliners, including Rosenberg and Executive Director Doug Allen. (Her accusation on Wednesday that coverage of the dispute by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times showed flagrant bias toward the studios prompted an angry retort from L.A. Times media columnist Patrick Goldstein today.) Previously the SAG leadership had disregarded the proposal and pushed for strike authorization. The new tactic was quickly rejected by Sam Freed, president of SAG's New York local, who told Daily Variety: "It is irresponsible and cynical at best to suggest that the guild could send out a contract referendum to the members with a neutral recommendation. ... The guild, under the direction of Doug Allen, has spent the last eight months and hundreds of thousands of dollars of members' money criticizing the contract in an effort to manipulate the membership." And Ned Vaughn, a member of the union's moderate Unite for Strength faction, told Reuters that Rosenberg's tactic now was "puzzling" since "he's condemned this approach since the beginning." He added: "The solution is new leadership."

CITIZEN JOURNALISTS COVER N.Y. PLANE CRASH

Once again, as it had in Mumbai last month, television relied on "citizen journalists" for video coverage of the crash of a U.S. Airways flight into New York's Hudson River on Thursday. First images of the rescue of the 155 passengers aboard the flight came from a person aboard a river ferry who snapped the scene with her iPhone and transmitted it to her Twitter account. All four major networks broke into regular programming with early video images, some taken by witnesses using cell phones. Helicopter coverage soon followed. The crash was also witnessed by ABC's Robin Roberts from the balcony of her apartment. She immediately called into the ABC newsroom and was put on the air. "I still can't believe what I saw," she said at one point. While CBS's Katie Couric anchored The CBS Evening News from the scene, rivals Brian Williams of NBC and Charles Gibson of ABC remained in their studios.

MARTIN TO QUIT FCC

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin confirmed Thursday that he will leave the commission effective next Tuesday, the day Barack Obama is sworn in as president. Obama has nominated Julius Genachowski to succeed Martin as chairman, but Martin could have remained an FCC member. He has been a lightning rod for controversy since he joined the commission in 2001 (he became chairman in 2005), pushing for more stringent enforcement of decency regulations and proposing à la carte pricing of cable channels. Only last week he voiced strong opposition to President-elect Obama's call for extending the Feb. 17 deadline for the transition to digital broadcasting. In his letter of resignation to President Bush, Martin said that during his tenure he had attempted "to balance deregulation with consumer protection."

SPANISH-LANGUAGE STATION MOST WATCHED IN THE U.S.

The television station with the largest audience in America of 18-49-year-olds in 2008 was KMEX, the Spanish-language outlet of Univision in Los Angeles, according to Nielsen Research. ABC-owned WABC in New York was the second most-watched television station in the country, followed by KABC, the ABC-owned station in Los Angeles. KMEX's 6:00 p.m. newscast also recorded the largest number of total viewers in the nation, with 146,000. And its late-night news also led with 197,000 viewers.

WEB TV MAKES A COMEBACK

While previous efforts to bring the Internet to television sets have received a lukewarm reception from consumers -- a notable example was Microsoft's failed WebTV, launched in 1996, which cost $325 for the settop receiver and $20 a month for the dial-up service -- the recent advent of streaming video services is apparently reviving interest. A survey conducted by software company Oregon Networks and semiconductor manufacturer Micronas and reported by TVWeek.com found that 71 percent of people who plan to buy a new HDTV set in the next two years would like to have a media browser built in to it. Most said they preferred the browser primarily to watch streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu. TVWeek quoted David Mercer of research firm Strategy Analytics as saying that the study indicates "that the growing popularity of video downloading services ... among other factors [is] now driving increased interest in having a superior audiovisual experience for consuming multimedia content over the Internet."