VIACOM PROFITED FROM STRIKE, TOO

Just days after one of Sumner Redstone's media companies, CBS, surprised analysts by reporting a 14-percent jump in profits for the first quarter despite the writers' strike, his other major media company, Viacom, reported a 33-percent jump. The company said that its profits rose to $270 million from $203 million a year ago. Overall revenue rose 15 percent to $3.12 billion, far ahead of analysts' estimates, who credited the results primarily to strong performances by Nickelodeon and MTV. They noted that the two networks were beneficiaries of the audience exodus from broadcast television that occurred during the strike. CBS also attributed its solid performance to the effects of the strike, saying that while it resulted in lower ratings and lower advertising receipts, the losses were more than offset by lower content costs.

NETWORKS LOSE ONE OUT OF FIVE VIEWERS

Thus far during the May sweeps, network executives and ad buyers are undoubtedly asking, "Where has the audience gone and how are we going to get it back?" At the end of the first full week of the sweeps, CBS has seen 21 percent of its audience depart since the first week of the May 2007 sweeps; NBC has lost 20 percent of its audience; ABC is off 19 percent; Fox, 16 percent. Fox remains in the lead, thanks to American Idol, but even that show's numbers are lower than at any time since 2003.

FORMER CBS NEWS PRESIDENT: MILITARY ANALYSTS DECEIVED PUBLIC

The former president of CBS News has expressed anger over recent revelations by the New York Times that military analysts hired by the networks to present unbiased observations about the conduct of the war in Iraq had undisclosed ties to the Pentagon and/or military contractors. "There was a deliberate attempt to deceive the public," Andrew Heyward, who served as president of CBS News from 1996 to 2005, told National Public Radio. "Analysts whose real allegiance was to the Pentagon and who apparently were given at least special access for that allegiance were presented as analysts whose allegiance was to the networks and, therefore, the public." Former Army Maj. Gen John Batiste, who eventually became critical of the war and was not invited to the Pentagon for briefings as some of his colleagues were, told NPR that there was "a very deliberate attempt on the part of the administration to shape public opinion" about the war and that it seemed to him that most military analysts appearing on the broadcast networks and cable news channels "were parroting administration talking points." Nevertheless, on his blog, The Daily Nightly, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams insisted that the two principal military analysts employed by NBC News, the late former Gen. Wayne Downing and former Gen. Barry McCaffrey "never gave what I considered to be the party line. ...At no time did our analysts, on my watch or to my knowledge, attempt to push a rosy Pentagon agenda before our viewers."

U.S. RELEASES AL-JAZEERA CAMERAMAN, HELD SINCE 2001

A Sudanese-born television news cameraman who was captured by the U.S. military while working for the al-Jazeera Arab news network in Afghanistan in 2001 and imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, has been released, the network said Thursday. A Pentagon official told Reuters, "He's not being released. He's being transferred to the Sudanese government." But the wire service also quoted Sudan's justice minister, Abdel Basit Sabderat, as saying that Washington had already had enough time to produce any evidence against Sami Haj and that his country has no plans to hold him. In New York, Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said: "His detention for six years, without the most basic due process, is a grave injustice and represents a threat to all journalists working in conflict areas." Al-Jazeera's director general, Wadah Khanfar, flew to Khartoum to welcome Haj and said that Haj will continue working for the network. Appearing on al-Jazeera's English-language network, Khanfar said, "We are concerned about the way the Americans dealt with Sami, and we are concerned about the way they could deal with others as well."

AFTRA MEMBERS VOTE TO APPROVE LATEST CONTRACT

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has concluded half a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with the union's membership approving a new three-year contract covering most reality, game, and news shows as well as afternoon syndicated fare and soap operas. The two sides are scheduled to begin talks on Monday on sitcoms and dramas shot in TV studios.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.