Civil libertarians and opponents of TV violence locked horns during testimony before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Tuesday. On the one hand, Caroline Frederickson of the Washington D.C. office of the ACLU insisted that the federal government has no business imposing standards on television violence. Doing so, she said, "would threaten core American values: the right to a free and open media, the right to free speech and the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children." On the other hand, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said that the amount of violence on TV has had the effect of "coarsening our culture and, I fear, weakening our society as a whole." Responding to TV industry claims that parents have the tools, such as the V-chip, to prevent their children from watching inappropriate content, Rockefeller declared, "Parents do not want more tools. They want the content off the air. ... We are left with no choice but to have the government step in." But Fox TV Entertainment President Peter Liguori told the hearing that despite numerous studies, no "causal link" has been established between TV violence and the real-life kind. Without that, he said, "we cannot justify imposing content limits on the media." Liguori and others testifying at the hearing suggested that any attempt to regulate the depiction of violence on TV would likely be overturned as unconstitutional by the courts. Several committee members appeared to agree, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who remarked, "We really don't want to pass something and have it thrown out in court."


It was the worst of weeks for the television networks last week as they produced some of their lowest numbers since the modern ratings system began some 20 years ago. Surprisingly, the top-rated show of the week was NBC's Monday-night edition of Dateline, the magazine show that has become mostly a place-keeper for shows that have been canceled. But Monday night's show in which Matt Lauer interviewed British princes William and Harry attracted 12.2 million viewers -- the largest number of viewers to tune in since an interview with Amber Frey, the girlfriend of convicted killer Scott Peterson, aired more than two years ago. NBC also scored with its Deal or No Dealgame show, which pulled in 12.1 million viewers. Nevertheless, CBS once again led in the ratings with an overall 4.8 average and a 9 share. Fox placed second with a 4.2/8. NBC came in third with a 3.5/6, while ABC trailed with a 2.7/5.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Dateline (Monday), NBC, 8.4/14; 2. America's Got Talent, NBC, 8.0/14; 3. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 7.8/14; 4. NCIS, CBS, 6.4/11; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 6.3/11; 5. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 6.3/11; 7. CSI: Miami, CBS, 6.2/10; 8. 60 Minutes, CBS, 5.9/12; 8. So You Think Can Dance (Thursday), Fox, 5.9/10; 8. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 5.9/10.


It appeared that viewers who abandoned the broadcast networks last week were high-tailing it to cable. TNT's The Closerdrew 8.81 million viewers, making it the most-watched cable-TV show of the week. The TimeWarner-owned network also scored strongly with its NASCAR racing coverage on Sunday, drawing 6.52 million viewers. Overall, however, Disney Channel averaged the most total viewers for the week in primetime -- 3.13 million. A new episode of its hit Hannah Montana recorded 7.38 million viewers and placed second on Nielsen's list of top-rated cable programs. USA Network, which ordinarily dominates in the cable ratings, came in second for the week with 2.66 million viewers, edging out TNT, which ranked third with 2.51 million.


A Spanish-language television station in New York handily beat all of its English-language rivals in the ratings Monday night. Univision outlet WXTV, which airs on UHF channel 41, averaged 598,000 viewers for a three-hour marathon of the Colombian-produced La Fea Mas Bella, the program that inspired ABC's Ugly Betty. WCBS, the usual Monday-night winner, was well behind with 445,000. The Univision station often tops its rivals during the late-night news period as well and did so again on Monday as Noticias Univision 41drew 478,000 viewers, to top WABC's Eyewitness Newswith 458,000 viewers.


Rupert Murdoch has apparently cleared the final major hurdle in his effort to buy Dow Jones, the company that publishes The Wall Street Journal, from its owners, the Bancroft family. According to published reports, Murdoch has reached a deal in principle with the board of directors of Dow Jones on a plan aimed at preserving the newspaper's editorial independence. Some newspaper accounts, however, said that certain members of the Bancroft family were still balking at the deal and holding out for a higher offer from the media mogul. Nevertheless, on a visit to Warsaw, Murdoch told Reuters that he had no plans to raise his $5-billion bid. "Everything is done," he said. "We are just waiting for a final approval of the Bancroft family ... in the next two, three week's time, or not at all."


While the median age of the average U.S. household is 37, the median age of viewers watching the major broadcast networks is 48, according to a report by ad buyer Magna Global that appeared Tuesday on the Advertising Agewebsite. The report indicated that for the fifth straight year, the median age of the average network viewer increased. It was 47 last year. CBS's 60 Minutesdrew the oldest audience with a median age of 60. However, the network has always been quick to point out, the figure merely means that half the show's audience is over 60 and half is under 60 and since the show generally ranks in the top 20 among overall households, it may draw more younger viewers than shows that record a younger median age but a smaller audience. For example, the CW's One Tree Hillhas a median age of 26, the youngest of any network program, but generally ranks around 100 on the Nielsen list.


Legendary British television interviewer Michael Parkinson announced today (Wednesday) that he plans to step down after next season. "After 25 years of doing my talk show I have decided that this forthcoming series will be my last," he said in a statement on Tuesday. Paul Jackson, director of entertainment and comedy for ITV, where Parkinson's show has aired for the past three years (it was previously carried by the BBC), said that Parkinson "has defined the talk show in British television and no one has come near to equaling his record. His name is synonymous throughout the English-speaking world as a benchmark for integrity and quality in the talk show genre."