DELAY SWITCHOVER, SAYS OBAMA
Siding with consumer groups, President-elect Obama on Thursday asked Congress to delay the analog-to-digital switchover, now scheduled for February 17. Echoing the concerns expressed earlier in the week by Consumers Union, parent of Consumer Reports magazine, Obama observed that funding for converter settop boxes had been "woefully inadequate" and that millions of households, mostly those of the elderly and the poor, that had put off installing the boxes would see their television sets go black on the February 17 date, since they were now no longer able to obtain vouchers to help pay for them. He indicated that there would be funds in his economic-recovery package to address the funding shortfall. In a statement later, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the House Telecommunications and Internet sub-committee, said, "Moving the transition date entails significant logistical challenges. However, the prospect of leaving millions of consumers in the dark requires Congress to immediately consider the feasibility of the President-elect's proposal. In addition, Congress should move quickly to address the needs of the millions of Americans currently on a waiting list for coupons to purchase converter boxes." All four major networks also issued statements supporting the delay.
SONY TO CONNECT PRODUCTS OVER THE INTERNET
Sony enlisted the aid of Tom Hanks at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to demonstrate how its new Cybershot camera can send images via WiFi to its Bravia TV sets or to its PlayStation Portable game devices or to its Vaio PCs or its Sony-Erickson cell phones. CEO Howard Stringer predicted that within two years, 90 percent of Sony's consumer-electronic products will be able to connect to the Internet and to each other wirelessly. Sony also announced that its PlayStation "network" can now deliver 1,200 movies and some 3,000 TV episodes. It said that MTV Networks has become its latest content provider. With much concern being expressed at CES about how the battered economy will affect sales of new devices, Stringer remarked confidently, "I can promise you the consumer electronics industry will ultimately prevail ... because everyone is still innovating."
WALTERS SPECIAL BEATS THE COMPETITION
Barbara Walters' interview with Patrick Swayze, who is battling pancreatic cancer, was watched by 12.6 million viewers Wednesday night, making it the most-watched show of the night, according to Nielsen Research. But ABC, which carried it, did not do so well with its entertainment shows, and the network wound up in second place for the night, behind CBS, which averaged 9.3 million viewers for its coverage of the People's Choice Awards and also drew solid ratings for repeats of The New Adventures of Old Christine (8.2 million viewers) and Gary Unwanted (7.4 million). Entertainment shows also performed poorly against the BC Championship football game on Fox Thursday night. The Oklahoma-Florida game attracted nearly as many viewers who tuned into the other three major networks combined.
STIKE OR NO STRIKE? ACTORS DEBATE
In advance of what could turn out to be a climactic national board meeting next week, leaders of the Screen Actors Guild are once again urging members to authorize a strike if contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers remain stalemated. In the January edition of SAG's "Call Sheet" newsletter, AG National Executive Director Doug Allen concludes, "At this juncture, we have exhausted all other options for diplomacy. Now we need you to authorize new leverage. Please vote yes on authorization." Meanwhile, a group of actors opposing strike authorization has produced a video that features former board member James Cromwell as narrator commenting that last year's WGA strike cost film workers thousands of jobs and has reduced the number of Hollywood productions by half. He asks members to consider, "What would be left of the film industry" when an actors strike is over? The film, which begins by showing a busy studio stage, ends by showing an empty one.
DID CNN AIR FAKE FOOTAGE FROM GAZA?
CNN is being accused of showing fake news footage of a journalist in Gaza returning home and finding his young brother mortally wounded as the result of an Israeli missile attack. After viewing the footage, a man claiming to be a U.S. doctor and writing under the handle "Last Mohican," posted a letter on the Little Green Footballs political blog claiming that footage of two doctors performing CPR on the boy were faking it. One of the doctors in the scene was later identified as Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, a supporter of Hamas, and the journalist was identified as the owner of a business that hosts Hamas websites. CNN reportedly removed the video after receiving word of the accusations -- which was reported on several pro-Israeli websites -- but did not issue a retraction.