SOPRANOS CREATOR RETURNING TO HBO

David Chase, who as creator/writer/producer of The Sopranos, was responsible for arguably the biggest hit in cable television history and unquestionably the biggest hit for HBO, has been lured back to the pay-TV channel to write, produce and sometimes direct a new series titled Ribbon of Dreams. After The Sopranos aired its final episode, Chase had said that he now wanted to devote his attention to the movies. In fact, he will be doing so with this latest project, since the drama begins with the advent of silent films and ends in the present day -- with actors playing a cast of characters who include some of Hollywood's most memorable stars. Today's New York Times said that the title is based on a line by Orson Welles: "A film is a ribbon of dreams" and that Chase had been researching the idea for about two years. His longtime producing partner, Grad Grey, now chairman of Paramount, proposed that it would work best as a mini-series and pitched it to HBO. The Times said that Grey will serve as executive producer of Dreams, despite the fact that HBO is a unit of Paramount rival, Time Warner. HBO has not indicated when the show will air.

WHILE NEWSPAPERS CUT BACK, CABLE NEWS MAKES GAINS

Newspapers are making enormous cuts in staff and expenditure, broadcast networks are seeing audiences for news programs decrease, and some local television news operations have shut down entirely, but the news for cable news for 2008 was glowing, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "The big winner in the last year, by any measure, was cable," Tom Rosenstiel, director of the project said during a conference call on Monday. Ratings for CNN, Fox News and MSNBC were up 38 percent and profit 33 percent. Much of the advance was attributed to interest in the presidential election and the economy, but the report also pointed out that while broadcast news depends entirely on advertising for support, cable news collects money from both advertisers and fees charged to cable providers. Rosenstiel indicated that many people working at the broadcast networks feel that the glory days are behind them. Viewers now want their news on demand, not at 7:00 p.m., and they are therefore migrating in increasing numbers to cable and the Internet. The report suggested that of the three major networks continuing to air a nightly newscast, only one, NBC, turned a profit with it in 2008.

OBAMA TO GUEST ON LENO'S TONIGHT SHOW

It may be rare -- if not unheard of -- for a sitting president of the U.S. to appear on a TV variety show when he is not engaged in an election campaign, but on Monday the White House announced that President Obama will be Jay Leno's guest on the Tonight show on Thursday. The Associated Press commented that the visit may be regarded as an effort by the president "to add a light touch to his effort to get the economy back on track."

HEAD OF JAPAN'S LARGEST NETWORK RESIGNS FOLLOWING SCANDAL

The president of Nippon Television Network (NTN), the oldest and the largest broadcasting network in Japan, has resigned following revelations that it had broadcast false allegations that the prefectural government of Gifu had created a slush fund by conspiring with a construction company executive to bill it for work never performed. The executive was later arrested on charges of making false statements about the deal on NTN. At a news conference on Monday, NTN President Shintaro Kubo apologized for airing the accusations and said he was quitting "for failing to supervise" the program. Kubo explained that he "simply believed" the man. The man, who was not named in news reports concerning the matter, reportedly told police that he had lied in order to receive money for his story from NTN. Kubo denied that NTN had paid him anything.

WRITERS GUILD FIRING MORE THAN 10% OF STAFF

Not only did last year's strike by the Writers Guild of America not increase the income of most writers but members of the union have been earning so little money since the strike that the WGA, which receives part of its revenue from members' contributions, is being forced to fire 20 of its 185 employees, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Tuesday). The newspaper observed that during the strike, the television networks increased the number of reality shows that they broadcast -- which typically do not use WGA writers -- and declined to renew some of the scripted shows that aired before the strike or ordered fewer episodes of the ones that did return. In addition, some writers were unable to pull down the same high salaries that they received before the strike, as TV viewers fled the networks, resulting in lower revenue from advertisers. WGA members, the Times observed, are required to contribute 1.5 percent of their quarterly earnings to the union in addition to dues.