Having already cut its ties to Tiger Woods, General Motors will now stop funding Ken Burns, the PBS documentary maker, the Detroit Newsreported today (Monday). GM is facing the worst financial crunch in its history and is slashing marketing costs. It has put up 35 percent of the budget for each of Burns's films and also funded PBS's school programs tied to them, the newspaper said. A spokesman for Burns told the News that Burns "is incredibly thankful for what they've done. As a partner, they have allowed him to tell many stories about American life that would either not have been told or told in a different way. It was an extraordinary contribution to public television." Said a GM spokesman: "We've been proud to be associated with Ken's work over the years, as he is certainly the 'gold standard' of documentary filmmaking. ... But the company's financial crisis has forced GM to rein in such spending."


In their latest effort to cut costs, CBS and NBC are buying Canadian-produced television shows that are due to debut this summer, Bloomberg News reported today (Monday). The networks are paying about half what they normally would have to shell out for a series produced domestically, the wire service observed. The two shows are a police drama, The Bridge, and the paranormal drama, The Listener. The Canadian network CTV will air the shows at the same time they air in the U.S. the deal follows the success of last year's summer series Flashpoint, last summer's highest-rated new drama. Although the shows are not being produced by a U.S. company seeking to benefit from Canadian tax breaks and lower labor costs, "it's still runaway in the sense that it's not being done here," AFTRA spokesman Chris de Haan told Bloomberg.


Thousands of rural dwellers across the country have discovered -- or will soon discover -- that even though they buy the new analog-to-digital converter boxes, they are unable to receive TV reception, since TV stations have not been required to upgrade translator antennas, which pick up signals from primary transmitters and relay them to rural locations, NPR's Morning Editionreported today (Monday). As many as 6,000 translators currently operate across the country, the report said, but some are so old and worn that upgrading them could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The NPR report indicated that the FCC had imposed the digital switch without taking into account the issue of translators and that no one knows just how many of them went dark on February 17 when about a third of the nation's stations made the switch to digital TV. Tracey Jones, the manager of a station in Harrisonburg, VA whose translator no longer functions, has suggested that persons unable to receive TV signals be given government-subsidized satellite TV. "It would definitely make more sense, in some cases, than building this huge, costly infrastructure to serve a very small number of people," she remarked.


CBS dominated the first two hours of primetime on Sunday and ABC dominated the second two hours. When the night was over, CBS came out sightly ahead, with an average of 11.33 million viewers to ABC's 10.10 million. CBS's long-running 60 Minutesstarted the night off solidly at 7:00 p.m. as it averaged 13.13 million viewers. The Amazing Racefollowed at 8:00 p.m. with 10.22 million viewers. ABC then took the lead at 9:00 as Desperate Housewives racked up 13.5 million, followed by Brothers and Sisters, which landed 10.5 million.