TURMOIL AT NBC NEWS AS DATELINE EMPLOYEES ARE OUSTED

Although NBC had originally attempted to downplay the effect of its planned layoffs of some 700 employees, reports emerged Friday that it was firing at least 17 employees of Dateline NBC, including correspondents Rob Stafford and Edie Magnus. A number of veteran producers are also being pink-slipped, the reports said. Some blogs suggested a state of near-panic had fallen on the NBC news division. One insider wrote the TVNewser website: "We have no voice; please publish this. Dateline producers are being asked to create hour-long primetime programs for the network, yet they're walking around the halls not knowing if they are the next one fired. Does that really help the creative process?"

DATELINE STING CONDEMNED IN TEXAS

The sister of a former Texas district attorney who allegedly committed suicide when police attempted to arrest him during an NBC Dateline "To Catch a Predator" sting operation, said Saturday that her brother's death was the result of an effort by the program's producers and others to grab headlines. Speaking at a city council meeting in Murphy, TX, a suburb of Dallas, Patricia Conradt said, "I will never consider my brother's death a suicide. ... When these people came after him for a news show and sensationalism, it ended his life." Other residents of Murphy objected to the program's effort to lure sexual predators to the town -- some from hundreds of miles away -- by members of the group Perverted Justice, posing as sexually active teenagers. "Why did they have to bring them to our neighborhood?" one man asked. "I personally feel it was only done for ratings." But another said, "You're more than welcome to use my home next time. I would be glad to see 21 more perverts off the street."

ED BRADLEY -- A RATINGS WINNER IN DEATH

60 Minutes paid tribute to one of its own Sunday night -- and the hour-long feature about Ed Bradley, who died earlier in the week, posted a 12.4 rating and a 19 share, beaten -- in the first half hour -- only by a football overrun on Fox. Indeed, football once again dominated the night as NBC's New York Giants/Chicago contest averaged a solid 13.4/20, winning every half-hour except between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., when it faced ABC's Desperate Housewives, which, as usual, was the highest rated program of the night with a whopping 14.4/20

SLIM-FAST OPENS FAT WALLET FOR DANCING

Slim-Fast spent more money on a product placement deal on ABC's Dancing With the Stars than it did on any traditional advertising, Advertising Age indicated Friday. According to the trade publication, the deal calls for Slim Fast to receive several mentions within each broadcast, especially on Wednesday when Tysonia, Slim Fast's own amateur dancer, appears on the show (and in a video on the ABC website). Slim-Fast VP/General Manager James Wong told AdAge, "We learned through the producers that there was an opportunity, and we recognized it was a big idea. Dancing is our consumers' favorite activity." In addition, Slim-Fast is using print ads to promote the show, while a contest on its website -- which has seen traffic grow by more than 10 percent during the past season -- offers tickets to the finale.

BBC A BIG WINNER WITH DANCING

The success of ABC's Dancing With the Stars is likely to result in a global network of production bases for BBC Worldwide, which produces the show, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Monday). The program, based on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, marks a new turn by the British broadcaster from merely licensing the formats and/or scripts of its programs to overseas broadcasters and instead producing them as well. BBC Worldwide executive Wayne Garvie said that the company should be doing what other British and European TV companies have successfully done -- producing versions of their programs for other markets all over the world. I think we have a lot of catching up to do. I think the BBC should have done this a long time ago," Garvie told the newspaper.

Brian B.