GOSSIP COLUMNIST SUES FOX NEWS FOR $5 MILLION

Former FoxNews.com entertainment columnist Roger Friedman is claiming in a $5-million lawsuit against News Corp that the copy of Wolverine that he viewed online had previously been in the possession of of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch. He maintains that the principal reason for his dismissal was that News Corp wanted to cover up the real truth about how the film ended up online. Details of the lawsuit were first published Tuesday by the Huffington Post, which noted that it barely mentions the Church of Scientology. Earlier reports had quoted Friedman as saying that he had fired because of pressure from members of the controversial church, which Friedman has often castigated in his columns. The lawsuit further observes that although Fox had ostensibly fired him for describing how to download pirated movies over the Internet, the Times of London had run a similar story in January 2009, giving detailed instructions on how to download pirated movies.

WILL COWELL EARN MORE THAN FOX?

If Simon Cowell leaves American Idol this year as he has contemplated doing in interviews, he could be walking away from an offered salary of $108-144 million, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper. The figure represents three to four times his current fee of $35 million, the newspaper said, citing a source close to Idol executive producer Simon Fuller. "Impossible," commented Newsday TV columnists Verne Gay and Andy Edelstein. "That would exceed the profit of the entire Fox network, in all probability, and wipe out whatever's left, too. It would be the highest services contract fee in TV history, by a vast margin. It would be suicidal - for Fox and for the entire TV industry. The TV industry isn't baseball and it isn't even basketball."

NBC RISES TO THE TOP AGAIN

NBC, whose peacock seems to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of the regular season each summer, had the top-rated show on the air last week, the Tuesday edition of America's Got Talent. The Wednesday edition of the talent contest placed third on the Nielsen list. The network also scored strongly with Philanthropist (No. 16) and a Dateline special on the death of Farrah Fawcett (No. 20). Nevertheless, CBS placed first overall for the week, with six of the top ten shows, including the top scripted show, a rerun of NCIS, which placed second on the list. Nevertheless, ratings overall for the broadcast networks were dreadful, with many cable shows producing larger audiences than top-rated programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. CBS wound up the week with an average 4.3 rating and an 8 share. NBC followed with a 3.6/7. ABC placed third with a tiny 2.9/5, and Fox came in last with an even tinier 2.6/5.

BRITISH TV EXEC SAYS U.K. NETWORKS SHOULD EMULATE HULU

Dawn Airey, the head of Britain's Channel 5, has urged fellow broadcast executives in the U.K. to build online partnerships and "then return to stabbing each other in the back over the broadcast schedules." She cited the success of Hulu in the U.S., which she said, resulted "because three ferociously competitive global media players - Fox, NBC Universal and now Disney-ABC - are grown up enough to know that there is a time to compete and fight like rats in a sack for audience share and there is a time to put aside your differences and form partnerships that are mutually beneficial." She lambasted the U.K. government for rejecting her proposals for a quasi merger with the troubled network Channel 4 on the grounds that it would not pay off in the long term. "Unless we come up with a sustainable business model for commercial broadcasting in the short- to medium-term, then the longer-term isn't going to matter," she said.