MANY UNAWARE THAT THEIR OLD TV SETS WILL GO DARK

Many owners of older TV sets who still receive free, over-the-air broadcasts are unaware that their sets will no longer function after Feb. 17, 2009 without a settop converter, lawmakers observed at a Washington D.C. hearing on Thursday. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, observed that the government was depending on broadcasters and television-set manufacturers to educate the public about the switchover from analog to digital broadcasting on that date but that their efforts have been insubstantial. "The time to act is now -- before the digital transition devolves into a digital disaster," Inouye said. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington echoed Inouye's comments, remarking, "I think there's high potential for a train wreck here." The government has set up a website, dtv.gov, and the toll-free number 888-388-2009 to provide information about how people with older TV sets -- and who are not connected to cable systems -- may receive free coupons that will cover most of the cost of converter boxes.

PARAMOUNT DEFENDS NEW EFFECTS FOR ORIGINAL STAR TREK

Paramount Home Entertainment said Thursday that complaints about the decision to add digital special effects to the high-definition DVD release of the original Star Trek series are fading. "Once people started to see what it is, the knee-jerk reaction has died down and people are starting to get excited about it," Jason Hillhouse of New Wave Entertainment, which added the effects, told Home Media magazine. Ryan Adams of CBS DVD said that the addition of the special effects is "definitely appropriate." Indeed, he remarked, the show "screams out for it." The 10-disc set is scheduled to be released on Nov. 20, priced at $217.99, in the HD DVD (but not in the Blu-ray) format. Meanwhile, Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Mr. Spock in the original series, appeared Thursday at Comic-Con, the pop-culture convention in San Diego, where he forecast that the upcoming Star Trek film, set for release next year, will "be a great movie -- and I don't say things like that lightly." Nimoy is expected to have a cameo role in the film. He was joined by Zachary Quinto, who will portray Spock as a younger man. Director/co-producer J.J. Abrams said that he also expected that William Shatner will be added to the cast of the film.

THAT'S INFOTAINMENT!

ABC News executive producer David Sloan has indicated that the network will be continuing to move toward the convergence of news and entertainment -- or "infotainment" as the controversial move has been branded. "My definition [of news] is limitless," he told Chicago Tribune TV writer Phil Rosenthal as he plugged next Monday's news special, Six Degrees of Martina McBride in which a group of six singers will try to connect with the country star in six steps or less. "It's a hybrid," Sloan said. "Look, ABC News is looking for new ways of interacting and engaging with the viewer. This represents that effort." A different sort of "hybrid," he noted, will be evident in the forthcoming six-week run of iCaught, using amateur videos posted on the Internet.

WHOOPI NOT SEEING THE VIEW -- YET

Despite widespread Internet rumors that Whoopi Goldberg has been signed to replace Rosie O'Donnell as a permanent host of ABC's The View, ABC Daytime President Brian Frons told Daily Variety Thursday, "We have no closed deal." (The trade publication, however, said that the network was in "final negotiations" with Goldberg's representatives.) An ABC spokesperson was quoted by the FishbowlNY blog as saying, "We adore Whoopi and enjoy having her as a guest host on the show, but no decisions have been made."

NEWS MEDIA DROPPED BALL IN TILLMAN CASE, DOCUMENTS SUGGEST

Former NFL player Pat Tillman, whose death in Afghanistan in 2004, was described in TV and newspaper accounts first as the result of an encounter between his troops and Taliban fighters and then as a result of friendly fire, may have been murdered, new documents have indicated. According to the documents, secured by the Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request, doctors who examined Tillman's body concluded that the bullet wounds to his head resulted from a weapon being fired from just ten meters away rather than 100 meters as the military had previously claimed. The documents also indicated that medical examiners, whose names were blacked out, had unsucessfully attempted to persuade military authorities to investigate the death as a possible homicide.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.