CRONKITE: COURIC'S DOING "A GREAT JOB"

CBS's most famous news anchor has given his blessing to its latest one. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Walter Cronkite said that Katie Couric "is doing a great job." He also approved the change in the format of the CBS Evening News, which now offers fewer hard-news reports and more in-depth coverage and features, calling it "somewhat revolutionary." He added, "I hope that the daring new presentation, I guess, is successful, as to me, they deserve to be." Cronkite was visiting Annapolis, MD, where he was honored by the new National Sailing Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, in an interview with the Associated Press, CBS News chief Sean McManus acknowledged that news program's decision to give only passing mention to a Senate report concluding that Saddam Hussein was hostile to al-Qaeda may have been open to question. "If you're going to do something different, you have to occasionally be willing to not do something that the other two networks are doing," McManus explained. "But if you've been No. 3 for 10 years, I'm not sure why you wouldn't do that.

AMERICAN MAY PULL ADS FROM ABC OVER 9/11 MINISERIES

Reverberations are still being felt from last week's airing of the controversial miniseries The Road to 9/11, as American Airlines confirmed that it is considering withdrawing all of its advertising from ABC and its affiliated stations to protest against a scene in the drama that depicted American personnel allowing terrorist ringleader Mohammed Atta aboard a plane at Boston's Logan Airport despite being flagged as a security risk. In fact, Atta passed through security in Maine aboard U.S. Airways earlier that morning. Following the airing of the film, American pointed out that the actual facts were spelled out in the 9/11 Commission Report and added, "This misrepresentation of facts dishonors the memory of innocent American Airlines employees and all those who lost their lives as a result of the tragic events of 9/11." American also sent messages to several websites that pointed out the error saying that it was "looking at possible legal actions" and that it was "outraged by this situation." The American statement concluded: ""That the film directly contradicts the findings of the 9/11 Commission is troubling. That it defames dedicated public officials is tragic. But the fact that it misleads millions of people about the most tragic and consequential event in recent history is disgraceful."

ABC TAKING EXPENSIVE GAMBLES TO COMPETE

ABC, which reportedly dropped Monday Night Football after years of earning $150 million less than it took in from the telecasts, apparently saw at least $30 million of its savings fly out the window when it was unable to find sponsorship for its controversial The Path to 9/11. "That was a fair amount of money for something that didn't have a demonstrable return," Jason Maltby of ad buyers Mindshare told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times. According to the newspaper, the network also spent more than $200 million on producing pilots for 38 shows this season, then selecting 15 to put on the air. "But if you don't take risks you will never truly know what the upside is," said Maltby. "No guts, no glory." Today officially marks the beginning of the fall season. Forty-one shows are scheduled to premiere this week on all of the network.

IDOL-LIKE TV CONTEST SELECTS STAR FOR LONDON MUSICAL

Culminating an eight-week televised casting search for an actress/singer to play the role of Maria in Andrew Lloyd Webber's upcoming production of The Sound of Music in London, 23-year-old Connie Fisher was chosen for the job Saturday night. The London Sunday Times commented: "The real winner of the contest, however, is the composer and producer, who may not have written a hit musical for several years but whose skills at self-promotion have never been sharper. Lloyd-Webber's quest for a leading lady for his stage version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical produced 12 hours of free publicity. ... He has already sold more than [$10 million] worth of tickets." Fisher will reportedly "share" the role with Emma Williams, an established stage performer. The production is scheduled to open at the London Palladium in November.

Brian B.