PATH CLEARED FOR MURDOCH TO BUY WALL ST. JOURNAL

General Electric will not compete against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to buy Dow Jones & Co, publishers of the Wall Street Journal. GE had reportedly had exploratory talks with Pearson PLC, publisher of the London Financial Times about making a complicated joint offer to the Bancroft family that would have packaged GE stock and GE-owned business cable channel CNBC into the deal. In the end, they reportedly concluded that no matter how they structured a proposal to the Bancrofts, it was not likely to beat Murdoch's offer of $60 per share. "Rupert, all along, has been the logical and only buyer for these assets, and the Bancrofts at this point would be well advised to entertain the offer,'' Gamco Investors analyst Lawrence J. Haverty Jr. told Bloomberg News. "No one will pay more."

SCRIPTED "MURDER" LIFTS RATINGS FOR WRESTLING SPECIAL

The supposed "murder" of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon in a car bombing lifted ratings for USA Net's 3-hour WWE Raw to the top of the Nielsen basic-cable ratings list for the week of June 11-17. The 10:00 p.m. hour was No. 1 on the list with 6.32 million viewers; the 9:00 p.m. hour, No. 2 with 5.68 million; and the 8:00 p.m. hour, No. 6 with 4.3 million. Ratings for cable networks are delayed longer than those for broadcast networks, but last Monday's three-hour follow-up seems certain to pull equally strong numbers. (It included a "memorial" address from Stephanie McMahon, Vince's daughter from the center of the ring, in which she remarked, "My dad wanted to leave this world the same way he lived in it, in the biggest way possible.") Although the WWE is claiming on its website that a federal investigation has been launched into the car bombing, the FBI has denied that any such an investigation has been launched. The blog Let's Wrestle commented that it's all "simply a storyline that is sure to stretch out for quite awhile."

SIMPSON PRAISES WEBSITE FOR PUBLISHING HOW I DID IT

A clearly drunk O.J. Simpson was caught on video by a TMZ cameraman emerging from the Forge Restaurant in Miami Beach Wednesday night. Asked about the posting of the manuscript of his If I Did It on the TMZ website, Simpson commented, "They should be able to do what they want to do. Don't let them keep you from doing what everybody else is doing," He denied that he had anything to do with the posting of the manuscript, then began making unintelligible comments about the families of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman and about Rupert Murdoch. He then said, "TMZ, thank you for putting this book out free to the public so nobody made any blood money at this point."

FNC ANCHOR SMITH TO TV REPORTERS: MAKE GOOD TV

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith has given the news crew at Fox TV-owned WFLD in Chicago advice on how to improve their 10:00 p.m. newscast. According to Chicago Sun Times TV columnist Robert Feder, Smith delivered his assessment with "brutal honesty," as one insider put it, urging the newscast's producers to add more music, bigger graphics and pick up the pace. One person who attended the lunch meeting recalled Smith saying, "I'm not here to talk to you about journalism. ... I'm here to talk to you about good TV."

HILTON, NBC DENY MILLION-DOLLAR PAYMENT

A spokesman for Paris Hilton has denied a report appearing in the New York Post Thursday that the jailed socialite had accepted an offer of $1 million for an exclusive appearance on the Today show upon her release. "Contrary to media reports, Paris Hilton is not being paid for any television interview. Nor is Paris being paid for any collateral, including video and photographs related to any television interview," the spokesman said. And an NBC spokeswoman told today's (Friday) New York Times: "NBC News does not pay for interviews -- never have, never will." However, today's Los Angeles Times quoted Poynter Institute journalism-ethics professor Al Tompkins as saying that networks today are making "end runs" around their policy not to pay for interviews. The newspaper cited last week's Matt Lauer interview with Prince William and Prince Harry, which aired on the Today show and Dateline after NBC agreed to pay $2.5 million for the rights to air a tribute concert to Princess Diana. (ABC's Barbara Walters has acknowledged that she offered to buy family photographs and videos of Paris and other material from the Hilton family for $100,000 in return for an exclusive interview. She told the New York Times that Rick Hilton called her back Wednesday that the offer was "not even in the same galaxy" as NBC's offer.) Referring to reports about an NBC-Paris Hilton deal, Tompkins said, "I don't know what transpired here, but what I do know is that any compensation that comes through a network -- whether it's a book deal or movie deal or offering special access -- none of that has any place in news."

FNC ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER MCCUDDY CANNED

Fox News Channel is replacing entertainment reporter Bill McCuddy with Jill Dobson, who writes for the supermarket tabloid Star, TVNewser reported Thursday. McCuddy, who has reported for Fox News since it went on the air in 1996, is expected to depart by the end of the summer.

Brian B.