DID ANCHORS MISLEAD PUBLIC ON IRAQ?
Appearing for the first time together on each of the major networks' morning programs to promote a Stand Up to Cancer telethon in September, Katie Couric, Charles Gibson, and Brian Williams defended themselves against claims in a new book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan that they fell for administration propaganda in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Although none of the three was anchoring a network newscast at the time, each acknowledged that they felt pressure from the White House to present the administration's policy on Iraq in a favorable way. CBS's Couric appeared to echo previous statements by her predecessor Dan Rather that newsmen did not put hard questions to administration policy makers, a point McClellan also makes in his upcoming book, What Happened? Appearing at her old stomping grounds on the Today show, Couric said, "I know when we were covering it -- and granted the spirit of 9/11 people were unified and upset and angry and frustrated -- I do think we were remiss in not asking some of the right questions." Gibson said that he disagreed. "I think the questions were asked," he said, but the response was "just a drumbeat of support from the administration. It is not our job to debate them." Williams said that he was in Kuwait at the time and that he received calls on his cell phone from the the Pentagon "the minute they heard us report something that they didn't like. The tone of that time was quite extraordinary." He did not identify the Pentagon personnel who contacted him. Couric said that one unidentified press secretary called the executive producer of the Today show after an interview she conducted, "and they said, if you keep it up, we're gonna block access to you during the war." She added that anyone who questioned the administration's policies was "considered unpatriotic" and that public opinion affected "the level of aggressiveness that was exercised by the media."
CONGRESS LIKELY TO PROBE "EMBEDDED ANALYSTS"
The Defense Authorization bill passed by the House last week contains an amendment that would bar the Department of Defense (DOD) from using funds for propaganda purposes and would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Defense Department's inspector general to determine whether the DOD's earlier policy of providing "talking points" to network military analysts violated existing laws against domestic propaganda, Broadcasting & Cable observed today (Thursday). The amendment was an apparent response to a New York Times report earlier this month revealing details about the program. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has already indicated that the commission might also look into the matter to determine whether the Pentagon program violated rules that would have required that the military analysts' ties to the administration and to defense contractors be disclosed.
IDOL HELPS FOX WIN FINAL WEEK OF SEASON
After much hand wringing over the erosion of ratings for American Idol during its latest season, the two final episodes last week -- Tuesday's performance show and Wednesday's results show -- wound up capturing bigger ratings than the comparable finale a year ago. Tuesday's telecast drew 27 million viewers; Wednesday's, 32 million. Together they gave Fox an easy win for the final official week of the 2007-08 season with an average 7.3 rating and a 13 share. CBS and ABC tied for second with a 5.6/10, while NBC continued to trail with a 3.5/6. Meanwhile, Fox reality shows that produced solid ratings for the network when they followed American Idol continued to lead their rivals on their own this week, the first week of the summer season -- although their numbers were down from the previous week. Hell's Kitchen and Moment of Truth likely benefited from the fact that the competition was a slew of network reruns. On Wednesday, the two-hour return of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance led the field, with the first hour recording a 5.3/9 and the second, a 6.3/10.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 17.7/28; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 15.1/24; 3. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 12.9/20; 4. Dancing With The Stars (Monday), ABC, 12.4/20; 5. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 11.8/19; 6. CSI: Miami, CBS, 10.4/17; 7. NCIS, CBS, 10.3/16; 8. House (Monday), Fox, 10.0/15; 9. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 9.0/14; 10. Criminal Minds, CBS, 8.3/13.
LAST-RATED NETWORK FIRST WITH NIGHTLY NEWS
Among the evening newscasts, NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams continued to lead with a 5.5 rating and a 12 share representing 8.1 million viewers -- a bigger audience than most of NBC's primetime programs. ABC World News With Charles Gibson remained close behind with an identical 5.5/12 but with about 300,000 fewer viewers. CBS Evening News with Katie Couric set another record low with a 3.8/8, representing 5.33 million viewers.
MORE CRYSTAL-CLEAR TV SETS ON WAY, SAYS SONY CHIEF
Sony's OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) television sets, which produce pictures nearly as sharp as a mirror but which thus far have only been available in an 11-inch model costing $2,500, will be available in 27-inch models within the next year, Sony chief Howard Stringer said Wednesday. Speaking at a conference on digital technology in Carlsbad, CA Wednesday, Stringer observed that the screen is so thin, "you can wrap it around your arm." He did not indicate precisely when the larger sets will become available or how much they will cost. "It's a complicated process and obviously we are working very hard to find out how to mass-produce it but until then it's very expensive," he said.