FCC CHAIRMAN HAILS NASCAR CRASH

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin spoke enthusiastically Monday about the crash of David Gilliland's car, Number 38, during a NASCAR race in Phoenix Sunday. The FCC had spent $355,000 to sponsor the car that sported a message to remind viewers that the switch to digital television will take place on February 17. The use of taxpayer dollars for the sponsorship has been criticized by numerous consumer groups and even by fellow FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. "The cars that crash get a lot of attention during the race itself," Martin told TV Week. "The cameras focus on it. What we are trying to do is get all the attention on this car." The telecast itself provoked controversy when ABC decided to cut away from the race in order not to delay America's Funniest Home Videos. It urged NASCAR fans to switch to ESPN2 to watch the end of the race. The Birmingham (AL) News excoriated NASCAR for letting "the networks do as they please," whereas the NFL has language written into its TV contracts barring such acts by the networks. "It's time for NASCAR to do the same and put America's Funniest Home Videos into the wall."

"F" BOMB HITS MSNBC

A "fleeting expletive" was uttered on MSNBC Monday and immediately "went viral" on the Internet, posted on numerous websites. It occurred when morning host Joe Scarborough was talking about the "good decent, steady" associates of Barack Obama, people, he said, "who don't go about screaming 'f*** you' at the top of their lungs." Scarborough appeared not even to realize he had uttered the word -- which is banned on broadcast TV but not on cable, except perhaps under the rules of MSNBC's owner, NBC Universal. Several seconds later, Scarborough remarked, ""Great apologies if I said the word instead of the letter. ... Now, I am going to get some soap."

WRESTLING PINS DOWN RATINGS FOR MYNETWORKTV

As it has since the dawn of television, wrestling can still be a potent audience attraction -- and has now given new life to the struggling MyNetworkTV network. On Friday, WWE Smackdown recorded 1.60 million viewers 18-49, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, beating NBC in that demo between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The figure was a record for the fledgling network, which was formed by the leading cable TV operators.

MORE RATINGS WOES FOR NBC

NBC continued to bleed viewers Monday night as its onetime hit Heroes drew the smallest audience in its history. The show attracted 7.82 million viewers versus 9.87 million a year ago. Nevertheless, Heroes was the highest-rated show in the NBC lineup. The network's new My Own Worst Enemy attracted just 4.25 million viewers, producing schadenfruede for the avid fans of the canceled Journeyman, which drew 5.13 million viewers in the same spot a year ago.

CIRCUIT CITY SHORT-CIRCUITED

After taking desperate action to avoid collapse, including shutting down 20 percent of its stores, Circuit City has concluded that it will have to join other big consumer electronics stores and seek bankruptcy protection. The company did so on Monday but said that it will continue operating through the holiday period and hopes to stay alive after restructuring. "Chapter 11 is not a closing or liquidation," the company said in an e-mail to CNNMoney.com. "We remain committed to doing a better job of taking care of our guests, and making it easier to shop at Circuit City." Some analysts were skeptical. "I think it's a tossup on whether they can come out or not," turnaround specialist Jerry Mozian told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times. "We're headed into an extremely difficult 2009, and I don't think anybody's sure how bad it's going to get."

DISH TO "TREAD WATER"

DISH Network chief Charlie Ergen isn't looking for new subscribers for his satellite service during the current economic downturn. As reported by the Multichannel News website, Ergen said during a conference call with analysts that he questions whether it is worth spending a lot of money for subscriber acquisition. "At some point in time, you have to be willing to tread a little bit of water, based on the marketplace that's out there. .... You have to be prudent in terms of where we spend our money." Ergen's remarks came as the company reported that it lost about 10,000 subscribers during its third quarter versus a gain of 110,00 subscribers during the same quarter a year ago.