Under a new three-year contract, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith will be paid $7-8 million a year, making him the highest-paid news anchor on cable TV and giving him a salary close to that paid by NBC and ABC to Brian Williams and Charles Gibson, the New York Timesreported today (Monday), citing an executive briefed on the deal. (CBS's Katie Couric is the highest-paid anchor, earning $15 million annually.) Although Smith has sometimes come under attack from the channel's conservative audience base, Fox News chief Roger Ailes told the Timesthat he regarded Smith as "in baseball terms, a natural" for his ability to "get a story and tell a story."


If the current writers' strike is not settled by mid-January, it would threaten not only this season's production schedule but development for next fall's as well, analysts said over the weekend. Jack Myers, president of Myers Publishing and creator of the MediaVillage website, told the New York Post that if the strike persists into the new year, "the traditional timetable for network concept development, script writing and pilot production will unravel." John Rash of ad agency Campbell Mithun, echoed the warning, telling the newspaper, "A multi-month strike could truncate not just the current television season but at a minimum significantly delay the next." Meanwhile, several analysts have observed that both sides will be entering the great unknown when they resume negotiations. "The writers and the producers are in the same boat," David W. Rips of the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times "Writers want to know what their percentage of residuals should be, but they don't know what the total market size is or the profitability of that market. And the producers are in the exact same position." Indeed, some technical experts have pointed out that the issue of downloaded or "streamed" TV shows may become moot as larger hard drives become available that will soon make it possible for TV viewers to record automatically virtually weeks of programs on every channel they watch for viewing whenever they wish.


DVDs of early seasons of Sesame Streetbear a warning to parents that they may not be appropriate for small children, the New York Timesobserved today (Monday). Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of Sesame Street noted that in the early days of the show, a regular feature was a parody of Masterpiece Theater, featuring Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, who appeared with a pipe. "That modeled the wrong behavior," Parente observed. Oscar the Grouch appeared too grouchy. "We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now," she said. The Timesalso noted that in the DVDs (Volumes 1 and 2) Cookie Monster can be seen "in his former inglorious incarnation: a blue, googly-eyed cookievore with a signature gobble ('om nom nom nom')."


Shelley Ross, who, as executive producer of Good Morning America, was credited with lifting the ratings of the ABC morning show by bringing to bear her workaholic and volcanic personality, is alienating staffers of CBS's The Early Show, which she took over two months ago, the New York Postreported today (Monday). The newspaper's "Page Six" column said that eight staffers have left the show since Ross's arrival and quoted one insider as saying, "She's driving the production staff crazy" and predicting that she'll last about eight months. One CBS exec told the newspaper, "I don't want to breathe the same air she does." But a CBS spokesperson said that the network was pleased with her performance and noted that she has already improved the show's ratings.


A television reporter for the private Iraqi satellite channel al-Baghdadiyah, who was kidnapped on his way to work Friday, was released by his abductors today (Monday), the station said. An editor at the channel told the Associated Press that no ransom was paid for Muntadhar al-Zaidi release but did not explain the circumstances under which it was secured or who had been responsible for the abduction. He reportedly was unharmed. The A.P. said that his colleagues realized that he had been kidnapped when he failed to show up for work on Friday. When one of them called his cell phone, the editor said, the voice that answered told him, "Forget Muntadhar."