WRITERS' STRIKE SETTLEMENT APPEARS CLOSE

In an effort to revive negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the Writers Guild of America on Tuesday withdrew its demands to act as bargaining agents for writers of reality and animated films and TV shows. The AMPTP had said that it would not return to the negotiating table until the WGA's jurisdictional demands were removed. In a message to members of the WGA East, President Michael Winship wrote that the guild had agreed to remove the proposals in order to show its "commitment to bringing a speedy conclusion to negotiations." With those issues removed, formal talks between the two sides were expected to resume today (Wednesday). The WGA also announced Tuesday that it had decided not to picket the Grammy awards ceremonies, set for Feb. 10. There was no indication whether the guild would allow writers to provide material for the program, due to air live on CBS from Los Angeles. Typically the awards ceremony credits two writers. However, the WGA vowed that it would not make a similar concession to the Academy Awards telecast, scheduled for February 24. Speaking at a WGA rally Tuesday, Winship said, "Until the Writers Guild has a deal with the conglomerates -- the studios and networks -- our intention is to boycott the Oscars, to picket the Oscars and to ask our fellow union members at the Screen Actors Guild to boycott the Oscars."

FOX TV TO CUT BACK PILOTS, OVERALL DEVELOPMENT

Fox TV and the CW networks announced Tuesday that they have decided not to produce pilots of many proposed television programs under consideration. They also said that, as an additional cost-cutting measure, they would abandon numerous projects that had been in development. Several networks have already cut loose writers and producers who are not currently involved in programs that are already on the air.

DEMOCRATIC DEBATE SETS RECORD

Monday night's Democratic debate in advance of the South Carolina primary drew 4.9 million viewers to CNN, setting a record. Surprisingly a whopping 1.9 million of those viewers -- or 37 percent -- were adults 18-49 years old, the target demographic for television and cable networks. The debate topped the previous record of 4.4 million for the Republican presidential debate last November on YouTube. The two programs were the most-watched debates on cable since 1996.

MEDIA ACCUSED OF UNCRITICAL COVERAGE OF IRAQ WAR BUILDUP

A study conducted jointly by the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism has concluded that the news media gave "deferential and uncritical" coverage to hundreds of false administration statements about the national security threat from Iraq following the 9/11 attacks that "effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses." The study, posted Tuesday on the CPI's website and reported later by Editor and Publisher, tallied 935 false statements by Bush administration officials, including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House spokesmen Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan. "The cumulative effect of these false statements -- amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts -- was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

RINGO WALKS OUT OF REGIS AND KELLY

Suggesting that being a 67-year-old former Beatle no longer carries the cachet that it once did, the producers of Live With Regis and Kelly on Tuesday refused to allow Ringo Starr to perform a song from his new album, Liverpool 8, unless he cut it to less than three minutes. Starr's publicist, Elizabeth Freund, told the Associated Press Tuesday that the drummer/singer walked out of the studio after the show's producers refused to compromise by cutting back the chat time on the program. A spokeswoman for Regis and Kelly said that Starr had been informed of the time requirement for the song when he was booked last November.

IDOL REMAINS NO. 1, BUT IT'S DOWN FROM LAST YEAR

Fox's American Idol continued to dominate the ratings Tuesday night, posting a huge 16.7 rating and a 25 share. Nevertheless that was down 12 percent from the comparable second-week numbers a year ago when Idol posted a 19.0/28. Although a repeat, Fox's House kept the network in first place place at 9:00 p.m. with a 9.3/14. NBC took over first place at 10:00 p.m. (Fox does not air programs in the 10:00 p.m. hour) with NBC's Law and Order taking a commanding lead over its rivals with a 9.0/15.

Brian B.