NETWORKS IN TIGHT SUNDAY-NIGHT BATTLE

Sunday-night competition between the networks turned out to be as fierce as the gridiron action on NBC's NFL telecast. At 7:00 Mike Wallace's interview with Bob Woodruff about his latest book disclosing the Bush administration's purported misrepresentation of its gains in Iraq dominated the hour with an 11.4 rating and a 20 share, drawing almost as many viewers as the other three networks combined. In a rare outcome, NBC, CBS, and ABC all tied in the 8:00 hour with identical 8.7/14 ratings. At 9:00 p.m., however, ABC took over the lead with a 13.2/20 for Desperate Housewives, beating NBC's Sunday Night Football: Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks, which scored a 10.2/15. CBS returned to the lead at 10:00 p.m. with Without a Trace pulling a 9.8/16, while ABC's new Brothers & Sisters came in close behind with a 9.1/15. The end of the NFL telecast on NBC fell to an 8.8/15.

FOX'S AILES: "I WOULDN'T CHANGE PLACES WITH ANYBODY ELSE"

Fox News chief Roger Ailes says that although he's disappointed by a steep 13-percent decline in primetime viewership this year ("It's hard to win the Super Bowl every year," he told the Associated Press), the news channel still overwhelmingly beats its competition, drawing nearly twice the number of viewers as its closest competitor, CNN. Interviewed by the A.P. on the 10th anniversary of the channel, Ailes said, "I have to be careful because I'm never satisfied unless we're going upward ... but the truth is, I wouldn't change places with anybody else and they would change places with me in a heartbeat. For all the attacks we get, do you think MSNBC or CNN wouldn't want to be where we are?" In a separate interview with Sunday's Chicago Tribune, Ailes said that Chris Wallace's interview with former President Bill Clinton produced "100 grand" of free marketing for the news network. Responding to repeated charges of Republican bias on the news network, Ailes remarked, "The odd part is here's the former president sitting on our air attacking us for not being fair, and he's saying whatever he wants. That's pretty fair. That's the point that every writer has missed."

CAN'T AIR ON TV? PUT NEWS ON THE WEB

While ABC was unable to provide details on the air of Florida Congressman Mark Foley's sexually explicit emails and instant messages to male congressional pages because of FCC restrictions, it was able to publish the missives on its website, beginning with one to a 16-year-old. That led to other pages coming forth with copies of their online exchanges with Foley, which in turn led to his resignation. Joan Walsh, editor in chief of the online Salon magazine, said on CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, "They went with [the messages] in a quick way, which the Web lets you do. ... The story came together, and Foley's career fell apart in a matter of hours."

FORMER ESPN COMMENTATOR: ESPN IS "A MONOPOLY"

Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock, fired last week as an ESPN commentator after calling fellow ESPN commentator Mike Lupica "an insecure, mean-spirited busybody" and ESPN.com columnist Scoop Jackson "a clown," refused to back away from his criticism when he appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday. "I can't say I did not want to be dumped, but I knew the ramifications and knew what could happen. I'm not that surprised. ESPN is very thin-skinned," Whitlock said. He then went on to underline his criticism of ESPN itself. "It's a monopoly. It's the most powerful sports entity, I think, in America, but it's not properly covered by the American media because too many of us are in bed with ESPN."

SEGREGATION OUSTED FROM SURVIVOR

In the end, racial and ethnic segregation on Survivor survived for only two weeks. On Thursday night's episode, host Jeff Probst suddenly and without explanation announced to the contestants, "You have been living together as tribes divided based on ethnicity. It is now time to integrate." Chicago Tribune columnist Maureen Ryan wrote on her blog Friday, "CBS certainly got what it wanted by announcing that the show would divide the tribes initially based on ethnicity. An aging franchise got a huge dose of free publicity and a show that had become just another program instead of sensation was being talked about once more. ... And what did we get? We got played, America." In today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, Jon Caramanica, the music editor of BET.com and freelance journalist, commented, "The producers might have been vindicated had they seen the concept through a few more episodes - and had race actually become integral to the text of the show, rather than just serving as a neat visual ploy -- but given its brief run, they only come off as frightened -- and relieved to get back on familiar ground."

BROADCAST TV MAKES A COMEBACK

Broadcast television, long thought to be on the wane, appears to be making a remarkable comeback this season, Advertising Age observed today (Monday), noting that the networks attracted 42.3 million viewers for the first week of the season versus 40.7 million a year ago. The magazine also took note of the fact that last season's top show, Fox's American Idol, drew, on average, one million more viewers than NBC's Seinfeld did in 1994-95. As a result of overall network ratings growth, AdAge said, rates for 30-second ads are being pushed to new heights.

WRIGHT DENIES HE'S QUITTING NBC UNIVERSAL

NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright accused News Corp of concocting stories that he is planning an early departure and that an informal executive search is currently under way to find a successor. The stories appeared in News Corp's New York Post. The Rupert Murdoch-owned company also operates the Fox Television Network, an NBC rival. As reported by Reuters on Friday, Wright told a small group of reporters that the story of his planned exit "is some creation of News Corp. There [is] no truth to any of that."

Brian B.