MURDOCH MAY LAND WSJ AFTER ALL

After at first rejecting out of hand Rupert Murdoch's bid for Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, the Bancroft family, which owns the company, said Thursday that they would consider Murdoch's bid as well as others from potential buyers. In a statement, the family said that they had agreed to meet with Murdoch to discuss his bid but that they would insist on preserving and protecting the Journal's editorial independence. They also indicated that their talks with Murdoch might not necessarily lead to negotiations with him. Murdoch has indicated that he intends to rename his projected Fox Business Channel the Wall Street Journal Channel if the deal is completed. In reporting the Bancroft family's change of heart, the Wall Street Journal itself observed in its lede: "Dow Jones & Co.'s 125-year history as an independent media company could be nearing an end."

PIRATES ADDS MORE BOOTY -- FROM TV

USA Network has agreed to pay $28 million for network rights to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, following its airing next summer on the Starz pay-TV network. The previous two Pirates films generated record ratings for the cable network. USA will be able to air the latest sequel for a five-year period beginning in September 2009. The deal is not exclusive; USA agreed to allow Disney to sell one-run rights to another cable or broadcast network during the five-year period.

A FELLOW GUEST AT YOUR HOTEL: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS

Viacom's Nickelodeon channel is getting into the hotel business with Marriott to provide kid-friendly atmosphere at 20 resorts featuring water parks and interactive entertainment provided by the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, the two companies said at a New York news conference Thursday. The first resort is expected to open at the former site of the San Diego Naval Training Center in 2010 -- an expanded version of Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn that opened in 2005 in Orlando, FL, which Nickelodeon has been using for customer testing. The new hotels will feature numerous in-room technology features, including high-definition TV sets, and children's rooms decorated with Nickelodeon characters in suites. The hotels, costing $200-300 million, are expected to be completed by 2020 and will be owned by Miller Global Properties.

SAWYER SCORES BIG "GET"

Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer has landed an exclusive interview with the man suffering from a particularly virulent strain of tuberculosis but who nevertheless traveled on at least two airline trips, exposing fellow passengers to the disease. In the interview, taped at a Denver hospital where he was placed in quarantine, Andrew Speaker told Sawyer that he hoped that the passengers "understand that I truly never meant them any harm." He said that he did not realize that he was contagious.

KEVORKIAN LEAVES PRISON, RETURNS TO 60 MINUTES

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who defied euthanasia laws and agreed in 1998 to be shown on CBS's 60 Minutes administering a lethal injection to a terminally ill man, will be released from a Michigan prison today (Friday) after serving eight years of a 10-25-year sentence in connection with the death of the man, authorities said Thursday. Kevorkian, 79, who is said to be gravely ill himself, has promised not to help anyone else commit suicide following his release. However, he said that he plans to remain an advocate for the right to assisted suicide, and, in that regard, plans to return to 60 Minutes on Sunday for an interview with Mike Wallace, who interviewed him for the feature that resulted in his murder conviction. Sunday's program, which also features a Wallace interview with actress Vanessa Redgrave and a repeat of an interview with Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmandinejad, is expected to close with a tribute to Wallace by colleague Andy Rooney.

PUTIN DECRIES CULTURAL INVASION FROM ABROAD

Russian President Vladimir Putin has chastised the country's television stations for packing their program schedules with cheap programming from other countries that has had "a massive cultural influence" on young people. He urged TV stations to "create the conditions so that the coming of age of the younger generation takes place in a wholesome atmosphere of home-grown culture." Currently some of the most popular shows on Russian TV are adaptations of programming from abroad, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire from the U.K., the game show Fort Boyard from France, and the country's biggest hit, Don't Be Born Beautiful, from Columbia, whose U.S. version is titled Ugly Betty.

AUSTRALIA'S RICHEST MAN CEDES CONTROL OF HIS TV EMPIRE

By selling an additional 25-percent stake in his Nine television network to CVC Asia Pacific for $427 million, Australian media mogul James Packer has effectively ceded control of the company that his grandfather founded 74 years ago. Packer, the wealthiest man in Australia, plans to use the proceeds to extend his investments in gambling casinos. In an interview with Bloomberg News, John Guadagnuolo at Equity Trustees Ltd. in Melbourne, commented, "It's the end of an era for the Packer family. ... James has made the decision there's a better return to be made in gambling."

Brian B.