THE NEWS ISN'T GOOD FOR KATIE

Although Katie Couric has said that she is paying no attention to her ratings, the latest from Nielsen Research might induce a shudder if she does take a peek at them. On Thursday it was reported that ratings for NBC's Today showhave actually increased since Couric departed and Meredith Vieira replaced her. In fact, Today was the only morning show to register a ratings increase versus the same week a year ago. It now sports a comfortable 17 percent advantage over ABC's Good Morning America versus only 9 percent last year at this time. Earlier this week, it was reported that ratings for Couric's CBS Evening News had fallen below those for the show when it was hosted by Bob Schieffer.

NASHVILLE STATION UNINVITES STARS OF GAY-ORIENTED PLAYS

A Nashville CBS affiliate has canceled the appearances of actors Delta Burke and Leslie Jordan on a local talk show in order to avoid offending the show's "very conservative viewership," TMZ.com reported Thursday. According to the website, the two performers were to have appeared on WTVF's Talk of the Town to promote two gay-themed plays in which they are appearing in Nashville. However, they later received an email saying that the producers, "after closely reviewing the subject matter of the two plays ... have decided that it would not be in the best interest of Talk of the Town to [have] an actor come on the show to discuss the plays." The two plays, Southern Baptist Sissies and Sordid Lives, by writer-producer-director Del Shores, have won numerous awards.

HOTEL CHAIN BLOCKS CNN

Stoney Creek Hospitality Corp., a Midwest hotel chain, has blocked CNN from the selection of TV channels it provides to guests, claiming that an Oct. 18 report showing Iraqi insurgents shooting U.S. troops was "shocking and repulsive" and "supported terrorism." James Thompson, president of the company, which operates hotels in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, told the Associated Press that he acted in "a moment of conscience." He said his decision to remove CNN from his hotel guest rooms was permanent.

ANOTHER NBC EXEC JUMPS SHIP

For the second time in two days it was announced that a top NBC executive was jumping ship to head the operations of a competing media company. David Zazlav, head of NBC Universal Cable and Domestic TV, who has guided the company's foray into new media, was named president and CEO of Discovery Communications. He called it a "dream job" and described the company as "a trailblazer." Discovery operates more than 100 cable networks worldwide including the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet, reaching 1.4 billion cable households. A day earlier it was announced that NBC Television Group President Randy Falco had jumped to AOL to become its CEO.

FOX NEWS VS. FOX TV

Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly has attempted to distance the channel from corporate sibling Fox Broadcasting, which announced this week that it will carry an interview with O.J. Simpson about how, "if [he] did it," he would have murdered his ex-wife and her friend. "Shamefully, the Fox Broadcasting unit is set to carry the program, which is simply indefensible and a low point in American culture," O'Reilly said. "For the record, Fox Broadcasting has nothing to do with the Fox News Channel." Several left-leaning publications immediately pounced on the comment. "O' really?" remarked the online Radar magazine. "That last part must have come as shocking news to O'Reilly's boss, Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes, who also chairs Fox Television stations." Others pointed out that HarperCollins, the publishing house that bought Simpson's convoluted confession (for a reported $3.5 million, payable to his children) is yet another corporate sibling. Nevertheless, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which owns them all, has apparently not sought to exert editorial oversight over them. (The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel would seem to have "nothing to do" with the liberal-leaning content of The Simpsons on Fox Broadcasting.) Meanwhile, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America Thursday, Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, lashed out at Fox Broadcasting and HarperCollins for "promoting the wrongdoing of criminals." And in an editorial, today's (Friday) New York Daily News asked "Can [Murdoch] slumber untroubled when his corporate empire is trafficking in blood money?"

FIERY TV CHEF RAMSAY OPENS NEW YORK RESTAURANT

Gordon Ramsay, the tempestuous British chef who stars in Fox's reality series Hell's Kitchen, opened his first U.S. restaurant in New York Thursday night, which has been booked solid for the next two months. In an interview with the Associated Press, Ramsay said that the restaurant, Ramsay at the London (in the London NYC Hotel), represents "the biggest" gamble of his career. "The till has to start working. New York is an expensive place to survive."

BBC NEWS WILL PAY VIEWERS FOR CONTENT

The BBC has announced that "on very rare occasions" it will pay viewers who send in newsworthy stories recorded on their camcorders or cell phones if they are "particularly editorially important or unique." The publicly-supported British broadcaster did not indicate how much the payments would be, but its decision to solicit such videos was regarded as a departure from previous policy. Another British television network, Channel Five, has said it will pay $190 for video clips that it uses.

U.K. BANS JUNK FOOD ADS IN KIDS PROGRAMS

OFCOM, the British television watchdog, announced today (Friday) that junk food advertising will be banned on all children's programming. The ban will apply even to evening programs that have an above-average audience of children younger than 16, including music channels and many awards ceremonies. OFCOM estimated that the ban will cost broadcasters about $75 million per year in advertising revenue. OFCOM said that studies had led it to conclude that "the case for intervention is clear." Some health advocates said that the ban was too limited and should extend to all programs aired before 9:00 p.m. In a statement, Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said, "OFCOM clearly believes that TV advertising has an effect on children's eating habits, yet it does not have the courage to recommend a more comprehensive ban."

Brian B.