MATLIN DEMANDS CLOSED CAPTIONING FOR "TV EVERYWHERE"
Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin has accused broadcasters, online DVD renters, and other video-content providers of dragging their feet in developing technology that would enable programs broadcast online to be closed captioned. Matlin, who has been deaf since childhood and said she was devastated when she discovered that Netflix's free presentation of the newly restored Wizard of Oz lacked closed captioning when it was streamed on the Internet last October 3, told an FCC hearing in Washington today (Friday) that she was originally told, presumably by Netflix, that the "technology was coming" to enable online closed captioning. However, she said in her prepared remarks, "Eventually I found out that there was actually no problem in the technology. In fact, the technology exists to stream content with closed captions. What it came down to was the same issue I encountered 20 years ago [when she originally demanded that TV broadcasters and manufacturers provide closed captioning] -- a lack of understanding and a lack of will and desire by broadcasters, content providers and equipment manufacturers to provide full access." Matlin concluded by imploring the commission to "ensure that the hard-fought victory we won so many years ago can move forward into the 21st century."
FORGET M*A*S*H*: SUICIDE IS PAINFUL -- ESPECIALLY TO THE OFFICE
Mental-health groups, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Awareness Voices of education, have condemned a Halloween episode of The Office in which the character played by Steve Carell slips his neck into a noose during a haunted house visit and tells a group of children, "Kids, just remember, suicide is not the answer. It is the easy way out." In an interview with TVGuide.com, Robert Gebbia, the AFSP's executive director, said, "We are not trying to be censors ... [but] the entertainment industry has to consider you wouldn't show footage of people making fun of someone dying from AIDS ... or breast cancer." He cited studies suggesting that depictions of suicide "can actually be dangerous" and can encourage "people who are vulnerable" to take their lives. Other groups joining in the protest were Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
A BAD WEEK FOR "CHRISTIAN VALUES"
"Christian values" suffered a setback on two fronts Thursday as Oprah Winfrey removed gospel singer BeBe Winans from her show and it was disclosed that sex tape featuring former Miss California USA winner Carrie Prejean was so salacious that even a porn website turned down an offer to buy it. Winans, who appeared on Winfrey's "karaoke challenge" last week, has been accused by his ex-wife of assaulting her and faces misdemeanor charges. A spokesman for Winfrey said that Winans had been edited out of the latest "karaoke challenge" segment. In the case of Prejean, who claimed that she was fired by the pageant because of her publicly-expressed religious beliefs opposing gay marriage, E! Entertainment channel quoted Nik Richie of the soft-porn website TheDirty.com that the alleged Prejean sex tape had been offered to him for $10,000. "It was very graphic," Richie told E! News, "and our lawyers wouldn't let us put it on the site." No other site has been willing to buy the tape either, said E! On Wednesday it was reported that Prejean agreed to settle her lawsuit against the Miss California USA pageant for no money after being confronted with the tape by the pageant's attorneys.
WILL OPRAH WINFREY MOVE HER SHOW TO CABLE?
CBS TV Distribution says that it has not been apprised by anyone within Oprah Winfrey's Harpo organization that she plans to pull up stakes in Chicago and move her syndicated talk show to her Los Angeles-based cable network OWN in 2011. Winfrey's purported move was first disclosed by entertainment industry blogger Nikki Finke on her Dateline Hollywood website on Thursday. Winfrey's contract with CBS TV Distribution -- although CBS acquired King World, the company that launched Winfrey's daytime program, in 2000, her program airs mostly on ABC-owned and -affiliated stations -- ends in 2011; OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) has yet to announce a launch date, and has been plagued by organizational turmoil. Last Tuesday it was announced that the cable channel had hired as its new chief creative officer Lisa Erspamer, a longtime producer of Winfrey's talk show. Late Thursday, Finke quoted an insider connected with CBS Television Distribution as saying, "In all honesty, we have not heard she's made a decision yet whether to continue. ... We think we're still in the talking stages. To our minds, it's a non-decision." And in a conference call with analysts on Thursday, CBS Chairman Les Moonves said that the company would not know the outcome of talks with Winfrey "for a few months."
LEVI JOHNSTON VS WILLIAM SHATNER
Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin's grandson, is finding himself being mocked about as mercilessly as the woman who nearly became his mother-in-law -- and he's fighting back. His lawyer, Rex Butler, has told the tabloid website TMZ that Johnston is taking on both the social-networking website Twitter and NBC -- and possibly even William Shatner and Conan O'Brien individually -- over an appearance by Shatner on Wednesday's Tonight show. On the show, Shatner performed a "reading" of Johnston's "tweets" that included such lines as, "What's the deal with the taxi drivers not speaking English, is there a law against it?" In his introduction, O'Brien remarked that the remarks were "all real ... we did not make these up." But Butler told TMZ that somebody else did -- and it wasn't his client -- and he is therefore demanding a "retraction" from NBC, which aired the program. "We are in the process of dealing with Twitter first," Butler said. "I think they have an obligation once something like this happens to make some kind of corrective measure." (TMZ's report on the incident appeared under the headline, "Levi says 'Tonight Show' Shat on Him.")