Some 63.23 million Americans watched Tuesday night's presidential debate on broadcast television and cable (Internet and PBS viewing was not included), according to figures released by Nielsen Research Wednesday. The figure far exceeded the 52.42 million who watched the first debate between John McCain and Barack Obama on Sept. 26 but was significantly lower than the 69.99 million who tuned in for the vice-presidential debate last week. On cable, CNN drew the most viewers, averaging 9.23 million, just ahead of Fox News Channel with 8.77 million. MSNBC counted 3.77 million viewers. Meanwhile, Sen. McCain's reference to Sen. Obama during the debate as "that one" created an overnight industry, with a website, www.thatone08.com, selling "That One" T-shirts and stickers within hours after the debate ended. Demand for the $19.95 T-shirts was so fervent that by today (Thursday) they were going for $24.95.


CBS and Fox continued to draw solid ratings for previous hits on Wednesday night, while ABC and NBC continued to flounder with new series and struggling returnees. Fox's Boneswas the top-rated show in the 8:00 p.m. hour, averaging 10.3 million viewers -- twice the number who tuned in to ABC's Pushing Daisiesin the same time period. CBS took the lead at 9:00 p.m. with Criminal Mindsaveraging 15.9 million viewers, while viewers deserted Fox, as 'Til Deathattracted just $3.97 million. CBS retained the lead at 10:00 p.m. with CSI: NYcounting 15.8 million viewers. ABC was far behind in second place, as its Dirty Sexy Moneytallied 5.9 million viewers. NBC's Lipstick Jungleplaced third with 4.7 million.


The Writers Guild of America has sent a letter to members warning them not to work for the upcoming variety show hosted by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne being produced by FremantleMedia North America, the company that produces American Idol, The Price is Right, and Million Dollar Password, During its negotiations with Fremantle, the WGA said, the production company "wanted to treat certain portions of the show as 'reality content,' not cover the writers who create it, and lower the compensation of the WGA-covered writers, arguing that they would only be responsible for writing part of the show." Fremantle's demands, it insisted, amounted to an "aggressive undermining of our contract." For its part, Fremantle insisted that the WGA had broken off negotiations "after only a few phone conversations" and then "implemented their usual mendacious strategy of feeding misleading and erroneous information to the press."


Although the American newspaper industry has been forced to lay off thousands of employees this year, the total number of layoffs in TV newsrooms across the country amounts to only 360, according to the Radio and Television News Directors Association. In an article published in the organization's RTNDA Communicator, Hofstra University Journalism Professor Bob Papper, who conducted the survey, observed, "The difference between newspaper and television is there are fundamental problems with newspapers in both circulation and business model. In TV, what we are seeing is a reflection of economic times." Papper noted that although 2009 is expected to be "a tough year," most stations, which operate with far fewer staff members than newspapers, "have little room to do any more cutting unless they cut newscasts. That's hard to envision given more than 40 percent of local station revenue is derived from local news."


The British Broadcasting Corporation has plunged into the controversy over the U.S. bombing of Azizabad in Afghanistan in August after U.S. military investigators on Wednesday acknowledged that 33 civilians had been killed, not 7 as originally claimed. The smaller figure was originally corroborated by Fox News correspondent Oliver North (of Iran-Contra fame), who was embedded with the U.S. troops. The BBC posted on its website today (Thursday) an eight-minute video showing what it said were 40 dead bodies, mostly children, lying under sheets and blankets inside a mosque. The video was reportedly taken by a doctor at the scene with his cell phone. It also reported that officials of the Afghan government and the U.N. claimed that 90 people, 60 of them children, died in the strike. Although in releasing the latest findings Wednesday, Lt. Gen Martin Dempsey said that U.S. forces had acted on credible intelligence and had killed 22 insurgents in the attack, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai last month blamed "total misinformation fed to the coalition forces" for the attack and acknowledged that "not a single Taliban" was killed. The London Timesoriginally posted the cell-phone video last month, warning of its graphic content. A BBC spokesman was not available for comment.