FOX SCORES NEWS BEAT WITH OBAMA CHAT

President Obama's brief interview with Fox News Channel's Major Garrett on Wednesday produced a fair amount of newsworthy copy. Suggesting that a behind-the-scenes truce between the news channel and the White House had been worked out, Garrett at no time brought up the subject of the squabble that became news itself when former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn called Fox "an arm of the Republican Party." He later explained to the Associated Press: "Look, I wasn't going to litigate whatever it was that was going on between Fox and the White House. ... Whether it was a war or not, I was always a conscientious objector in the conflict." But during a discussion of the interview on Fox News, conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer quipped that it "constitutes the most important truce in our history since the Korean armistice of 1953." Meanwhile a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs has concluded that since Inauguration Day only 27 percent of Fox's coverage of the president on its "Special Report" feature -- whose coverage resembles that of the broadcast networks' evening newscasts -- was favorable. However, the study also disclosed that only 35 percent of the evaluations of the administration on ABC, CBS and NBC were positive. Therefore, it concluded, since the election, "Fox's coverage has gone from being the worst of all to merely the worst among equals."

MARTHA STEWART SAYS SHE HAS LOST MORE THAN $1 BILLION

Martha Stewart claimed Wednesday that her conviction and prison sentence in 2004 following a stock-trading scandal cost her more than $1 billion. Appearing on ABC's Nightline show, Stewart said she was "pissed" when she realized her conviction had had a devastating effect on her company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia. "The company had nothing to do with anything. But yet, because I am the face and the brand ... it certainly had a harmful effect." When Nightline co-host Cynthia McFadden asked, "Do you kick yourself just a little bit?" Stewart stood firm. "How can I kick myself? There are other people to be kicked." She then cut off further discussion of the incident. "Enough!" she told McFadden. "Let's get on with the future."

FEW GAINS FOR FEMALE AND MINORITY TV WRITERS

Female and minority television writers have made few gains in recent years, and, for black writers, the shutdown of UPN, which had aired numerous comedy shows targeting the African-American audience, has resulted in about a 10 percent loss of jobs, according to a study released Wednesday by the Writers Guild of America (WGA). "Breaking out of the stagnation in writer diversity ... will require bold, new approaches," the report states. "Only then will we begin to make appreciable progress toward catching up with a changing America. Only then will we move closer to making sure that all of our stories are told." The study did find that the earnings gap between white male writers and female and minority writers has contracted.

TV'S BIGGEST GIVE-AWAY?

Upping the ante among competition reality series, NBC has green-lighted a show in which the grand prize is a chain of four new restaurants, the Hollywood Reporter reported today, calling the prize "among the biggest in reality show history." Contestants on the series, tentatively titled United Plates of America, will compete in front of a panel of wealthy investors on such subjects as restaurant concept, menu, marketability, and management skill. "It's a culinary competition that anybody can take part in," executive producer Dan Cutforth told the trade publication. "All you need is a great idea for a restaurant."

RATINGS CONTINUE TO CLIMB FOR NBC'S MERCY

NBC's hospital drama Mercy continued its impressive ratings rise Wednesday night as it averaged 7.8 million viewers and placed first in the 8:00 p.m. hour. One of the worst-reviewed new shows, Mercy has managed to pick up viewers steadily from the beginning of the season, when it tied for fourth place in its debut -- drawing fewer viewers than the failed Knight Rider, which preceded it last season. NBC also drew decent ratings for Law & Order: SVU, which followed at 9:00 p.m., but the 8.4 million viewers who tuned in represented a 30 percent drop from last season when it aired on Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. And the show that forced it to move, The Jay Leno Show, at 10:00 p.m. continued to draw anemic ratings, attracting only 4.8 million viewers. By contrast, Robin Roberts's interview with Janet Jackson in the same hour drew 6.6 million viewers, and CBS's CSI: NY was the top-rated show of the night with 13.6 million viewers.