STUDIOS, NETWORKS BRACE FOR STRIKE

Movie and TV producers are gearing for a probable strike by the Writers Guild of America on November 1, Daily Variety observed today (Tuesday). The trade publication quoted one unnamed studio executive as saying, "It's as hot as I've ever seen it. And whether or not they strike on November 1, we have to act as if they will." In an interview with Variety, WGA West President Patric Verrone said, "A strike on Nov. 1 is a real option." TV networks are likely to be hit first -- and hardest. "The nets are scrambling to figure out how they'll fill primetime with no new scripted shows," Variety commented. (For the past three weeks, NBC has not aired its Dateline magazine feature, the first time in its history that the show has been sidelined for so long. The network has traditionally used Dateline as a fill-in for failed shows but presumably is now stockpiling episodes for airing during a strike.)

DANCING LIGHT ON ITS FEET; OTHER SHOWS STUMBLE

ABC's Dancing With the Stars continued to dominate on Monday night, averaging a 12.8 rating and a 19 share between 8:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Many of the shows on other networks, however, saw significant ratings erosion. CBS's Two and a Half Men at 9:00 p.m. dropped to an 8.4/12, down 24 percent from the comparable Monday a year ago. Likewise, the network's CSI: Miami was down 18 percent to a 10.1/16. NBC's new comedy Chuck saw its ratings decline to a 4.9/7 following its debut two weeks earlier with a 6.4/10. The network's new Journeyman dropped to a 4.8/7, a 29-percent plunge from its opening week.

U.S. ARMY RETURNS CONFISCATED NEWS FOOTAGE

Associated Press Television News reported today (Tuesday) that the U.S. military in Iraq has returned footage seized by American soldiers last week from one of APTN's cameramen. The cameraman, Ayad M. Abd Ali, had been filming the aftermath of an insurgent attack against the Polish ambassador that left him critically injured. A.P. said that after his video was grabbed, Ali was handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken away in a Humvee. After being detained by U.S. troops for some 40 minutes, he was released, but his video was not returned. Initially a U.S. Army spokesman had cited an Iraqi law against taking photographs at the scene of insurgent attacks. He later denied, however, that the Army was enforcing Iraqi laws. Then on Monday the Army returned the tapes. A.P. attorney Dave Tomlin told the wire service that he was glad the video had been returned, "but it should never have been seized in the first place. ... We plan to ask for assurances that soldiers aren't actually being told to harass journalists and interfere with newsgathering."

NBC CHIEF THOUGHT COURIC TOO LIBERAL, SAYS BOOK

While Katie Couric was still co-hosting the Today show, former NBC President Robert Wright forwarded a note to her from a viewer who complained that Couric had been "too confrontational" during her interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz has revealed in his new book, Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War, out today (Tuesday). "Couric felt that Wright must be telling her to back off" on the war in Iraq, Kurtz writes. "She wanted to believe that her NBC colleagues were partners in the search for truth, and no longer felt that was the case. She knew that the corporate management viewed her as an out-and-out liberal. When she ran into Jack Welch, the General Electric chairman, he would sometimes say that they had never seen eye to eye politically. If you weren't rah rah rah for the Bush administration, and the war, you were considered unpatriotic, even treasonous."

ABC ANCHOR GIBSON CLAIMS ADVERTISERS KEEP HANDS OFF NEWS

ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson told students at the University of Pennsylvania Monday that corporate bosses do not influence the content of his nightly newscast. "We're circumspect that our ownership is Disney," the student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian quoted Gibson as saying. "We'll talk about a story if it affects them. But the sales division keeps their hands off." Commenting on the falling ratings for the rival CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Gibson said that CBS's mistake was "trying to alter the form of the show."

ANOTHER HUGE STAFF CUT EXPECTED AT BBC

The BBC is about to fire as many as 2,800 employees, representing more than 12 percent of its workforce, the London Financial Times reported today (Tuesday). Most of the cuts will hit the BBC's news, talk and documentary units, the financial newspaper said. BBC Director-General Mark Thompson is expected to present details of the retrenchment at a meeting of the BBC Trust on October 17. In March 2005, the BBC cut its staff by 3,700.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.