COMCAST MAY PUT FOX BUSINESS CHANNEL IN BUSINESS

News Corp's plans to launch a Fox business news channel has received a major boost with the agreement of Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, to carry the channel on its systems. Today's (Tuesday) New York Times, citing people with knowledge of the deal,reported that Comcast had agreed to carry the channel as part of its basic service to its 12 million digital subscribers. Combined with the 15.5 million subscribers for News Corp-controlled DirecTV, the business channel would be able to boast a hefty potential audience at start-up.

FCC CLEARS TWO TV SHOWS CITED FOR INDECENCY

Two television shows that the FCC had previously branded as indecent were given a clean bill of health Monday. The commission said that the use of the s-word during a broadcast of CBS's The Early Show was "neither indecent nor profane in this instance due to the fact that it occurred during news programming." The FCC also found that complaints about a brief scene in ABC's NYPD Blue depicting a teen orgy were "inadequate to trigger enforcement action," presumably because they did not come from anyone in the Central Time Zone, where the program airs at 9:00 p.m. -- i.e., outside the "safe harbor" period of 10:00-11:00 p.m. The FCC said that two other rulings involving "the use of offensive language by participants in 'The 2003 Billboard Music Awards' and 'The 2002 Billboard Music Awards' was indecent and profane. ... Hollywood continues to argue they (sic) should be able to say the f-word on television whenever they want. Today, the commission again disagrees."

CMA AWARDS SHOW SINGS BLUES

ABC's coverage of the 40th Annual Country Music Association Awards averaged a 9.0 rating and a 13 share Monday night -- the lowest ever for the awards telecast and slightly below CBS's coverage of it a year ago, when it registered a 9.9/14. It attracted 15.89 million viewers down 10.4 percent from last year when 17.73 million tuned in. Nevertheless, the CMA telecast gave ABC a close sweeps victory for the night, as CBS, the usual Monday-night winner, came in second with an 8.8/13 average, followed by NBC with an 8.5/13. The highest-rated show of the night continued to be CBS's CSI: Miami, which pulled an 11.8/18 at 10:00 p.m., but NBC's Heroes also impressed once again by finishing with a 9.7/14 in the 9:00 p.m. hour.

DATELINE TARGET -- A FORMER D.A. -- KILLS HIMSELF

A former Texas district attorney targeted by NBC Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" feature apparently shot and killed himself Monday as sheriff's deputies, accompanied by a Dateline camera crew, attempted to arrest him. Reports said that former Kaufman County D.A. Louis "Bill" Conradt Jr. had solicited sex from a Perverted Justice decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy and paid by Dateline. The TV show had set up a sting house in Murphy, TX, a suburb of Dallas, to which alleged online predators were lured by decoys and where, upon their arrival, they found themselves on camera facing Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen. In Conradt's case, however, although he had reportedly agreed to come to the sting house, he failed to show up. Nevertheless, authorities said that they had sufficient evidence to charge him with soliciting sex from a minor and that they had obtained warrants to search his home and computer for additional evidence. Meanwhile, Murphy Mayor Bret Baldwin condemned the decision to use a home in the town for the Dateline sting. "I don't think bringing predators into the middle of our neighborhoods where children live is the answer to the problem," he told the Houston Chronicle. The newspaper also quoted Forth Worth attorney Tim Evans as saying, "We should be very concerned about this dangerous trend of combining law enforcement with sensationalistic commercial television."

SHREK TO TRANSITION FROM MOVIES TO TV

In what is likely the first instance of characters created by computer animation for a theatrical motion picture showing up in a television special, ABC plans to air Shrek the Halls from DreamWorks Animation in December 2007. Like the movie, the Christmas TV special will feature the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas, ABC said in a statement. The special, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said, "follows a natural storytelling path for us, and we're so happy to be partnered with ABC in expanding the world of Shrek into the television arena." In a manner of speaking, the deal also reunites Katzenberg with Disney for the first time since his rancorous split with former Disney chief Michael Eisner in 1994.

MISSING PASSIONS? GET IT ON THE 'NET

NBC's Passions has become the first daytime soap opera to become available for free online viewing on the same day it is broadcast. Each episode, which is being streamed starting at 6:00 p.m. nightly, can be viewed for up to a week. In 2003, Sony experimented with an online video-on-demand plan that allowed Internet users to access The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives and As the World Turns for $1.99 for a single episode or $9.99 per month.

DAN RATHER TO COVER ELECTIONS -- ON COMEDY CENTRAL

Dan Rather will apparently be playing straightman to the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's election-night special tonight (Tuesday). "I'm told I will be expected to 'play it straight,' and then they'll bounce off it. We'll see," Rather told today's Philadelphia Inquirer. The former CBS Evening News anchor, admitting that his appearance is a professional "risk," is clearly anxious to return to the kind of live reporting that he was forced to abandon when he was dumped by his network in the wake of the "Memogate" controversy last year. In an interview with the Inquirer, Bob Thompson, who heads Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television, commented, "Let's face it, Rather's got a lot to say. You might hate him, but he's an experienced journalist."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.