DECK THE WALLS WITH HDTV

Retailers plan to entice customers into their stores over "Black Friday" by offering high-definition TV sets with little or no price markups, news reports said today (Thursday). A few retailers will be opening their doors today, Thanksgiving Day, offering specials that they hope will lure people out of their homes just as soon as the holiday turkey is done. Kmart is offering a 32-inch flat-screen HDTV for $419.99. CompUSA, which will also be open today, is offering a 42-inch HDTV set for $1,299. Several stores have knocked down the price of Samsung Blu-ray video players to $399. Prices are expected to fall even lower on Friday. Wal-Mart reportedly plans to sell a 42-inch plasma HDTV for $988, while Best Buy will be offering a 42-inch LCD HDTV for $999.

MEDIA MOGULS BLAST FCC'S ATTEMPT TO REGULATE CABLE

The heads of News Corp, Disney, Viacom, and NBC Universal have jointly told the FCC to butt out of the cable business. While the letter is intended to counter reported FCC plans to require cuts in the rates that cable networks pay to lease channels, the industry sees it as an opening wedge to expand the FCC's role in cable regulation, with an eye on forcing cable operators to offer a la carte programming. The letter, signed by Peter Chernin, president-COO of News Corp.; Robert Iger, president-CEO of the Walt Disney Co.; Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom; and Jeff Zucker, president-CEO of NBC Universal, said, "Ill-considered and unjustified government regulation cannot be permitted to undermine this vibrant American industry." Earlier on Wednesday, a majority of Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee also attacked the FCC plan.

RATHER'S LAWYER SAYS CBS WON'T LET HIM TALK TO EXPERT

CBS has prevented Dan Rather and his attorneys from speaking to an expert that the network hired to determine the authenticity of the documents used by Rather on his controversial 60 Minutes II report on President Bush's service in the National Guard, the New York Observer reported today (Thursday). The Observer said that the network had hired former FBI agent Erik T. Rigler to investigate the documents after the program aired but instead curtailed his investigation and has never made his findings public. Rather's attorney, Martin Gold, told the the Times that he had initially been told by Rigler that he would be willing to discuss the investigation but that he would have to receive permission first from CBS. After that initial telephone conversation, however, Rigler reportedly refused to talk to Gold. "CBS shut me down," Gold told the newspaper. As part of Rather's lawsuit, however, Gold said that he intends to take Rigler's testimony during a deposition and subpoena his records.

ENGLAND'S SOCCER LOSS PROVES COSTLY TO ITV

The failure of the England soccer team to make it to the 2008 European championships is likely to cost commercial broadcaster ITV as much as $20-24 million in lost ad revenue, the BBC reported on its website today (Thursday). England's loss to Croatia Wednesday night drew 13.2 million viewers at its peak, representing 48 percent of the entire British television audience. But the European Finals without England is not expected to be a great draw. "It is very important to ITV whether England qualify because when the national team play, to a degree the whole nation stops," Kevin Alavy, head of analytics at media agency Initiative, told the BBC.

Brian B.