OLYMPICS MEDIA BATTLE CHINA SYNDROME
Following numerous reports that China has imposed restrictions on foreign news media that will impede -- if not prevent -- their coverage of the Olympic Games, officials of the International Olympic Committee charged with coordinating TV, radio and press coverage have begun talks with members of China's organizing committee seeking assurances that broadcasters will have unfettered access to sites in Beijing. The Associated Press on Monday quoted IOC member Kevan Gosper as saying that "some progress" had been made, "but I can't say we are there yet." Chinese officials are apparently concerned that opponents of their country's policies regarding Tibet and Darfur may attempt to stage demonstrations in Beijing during the games in hopes of attracting the attention of the world's news media. Gosper, who is chairman of the IOC press commission, told the AP that he has made it plain to Chinese organizers that journalists must "have the ability of filing live without any censorship." But Kevin Fleck, China manager of Sydney-based Global Vision Networks, a satellite service provider that has contracted to provide satellite feeds for local stations all over the world, told the wire service that he has run into bureaucratic roadblocks. He said he worries that reporters are going to try to get "on the morning show back home and they're not going to be able to do it. And they are going to be angry."
ALL OLYMPICS; ALL THE TIME
NBC plans to set up a TV network, composed of both local broadcast stations and cable outlets, that will be devoted entirely to Olympic Sports, published reports said Monday. As part of its plans, NBC has taken a stake in World Championship Sports Network, which will carry the programming and change its name to Universal Sports Network. WCSN currently provides programming via over-the-air TV stations and a website that streams live sporting events. The companies' plans could conflict with another Olympics channel being developed by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Answering the question of how Universal Sports expects to fill a full daily schedule with Olympics coverage before the summer games actually begin, the companies said in their statement that the channel plans to provide a "year-round destination for the elite and everyday athletes who compete, hope to compete and admire those who compete" in the Olympics.
GE SHARES PLUNGE; ANALYSTS URGE NBC SPIN-OFF
Shares of Universal NBC parent General Electric plunged to their lowest point in five years Monday after JPMorgan analyst C. Stephen Tusa cut his rating of GE stock to neutral. Tusa, a longtime booster of GE stock, acknowledged that he was wrong in his assessment of the company's performance. GE has been under pressure to spin off its entertainment units, with analysts maintaining that GE chief Jeffrey Immelt has little understanding of the business. Among other complaints, some critics say that the company's strategy to remake its MSNBC cable channel into a platform for highly opinionated broadcasters on the left, while improving the channel's ratings, is tarnishing NBC News's reputation for balance and restraint.
NETWORK RATINGS PLUNGE
The TV networks offered up a night of virtually uninterrupted reruns Monday night -- and saw their ratings plunge to their lowest level of the year as a result. Fox led the pack with an average 5.0 rating and an 8 share. CBS averaged a 4.8/8. ABC placed third with a 3.9/7 and NBC trailed with a 3.5/6. The highest-rated show of the night was CBS's Two and a Half Men with a 5.8/10; the lowest-rated was ABC's The Mole with a 2.7/5.