More than two dozen CBS affiliates have decided either to drop or delay an updated version of the documentary 9/11 after some "family values" groups mounted a campaign to urge the FCC to fine the network and its stations for what one of their leaders described as "hardcore profanity" spoken by some of the rescuers who appear in the film. Congress recently increased the fines the FCC can impose on a station for broadcasting indecent language from $32,500 to $325,000. Martin Franks, executive vice president of CBS, said that the pullout by the stations represented "example No. 1" of the chilling effect on free speech of the legislative action and by earlier fines meted out by the FCC for the Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl two years ago. The Rev. Don Wildmon had asked the 3 million members of his American Family Association and other sympathizers to bombard the FCC and their CBS stations with complaints about the language in the documentary. But on Arianna Huffington's liberal blog, one message read: "Let me get this straight: It is perfectly okay for children to watch a documentary on 9-11 and see planes crash into the WTC; view footage of people jumping out of burning buildings; witness pandemonium in the streets of NYC; hear audio tape of real 911 calls; and see scenes of the wounded being treated at triage units; but it is NOT okay for them to hear curse words?"


Brent Bozell, whose Parents Television Council has been at the forefront in campaigning for tougher regulations on television indecency, said Friday that he will step down as president of the organization on Jan. 1. He said, however, that he will continue to serve as an advisor to the group. In a statement, Bozell remarked, "It has simply become too much for me, and with a large family, it's just not healthy for me. More importantly, however, it is not healthy for the PTC."


Audiences deserted the MTV Video Music Awards in droves Thursday. According to Nielsen research, just 5.77 million people tuned in, down 28 percent from last year and 45 percent from 2004. The VMAs once regularly attracted 12 million viewers. The producers of the show had reportedly embarked on a plan last year to bring it to major cities across the country, but after last year's disappointing ratings, when it aired from Miami, they moved it back to New York. (The show has also frequently aired from Los Angeles.) The VMAs experienced their biggest drop among MTV's target audience of 12-34-year-old viewers, 33 percent of whom pulled out. However, MTV's video website Overdrive reported 3.9 million streams for VMA "extras" -- up more than 200 percent over last year.


"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, 44, was killed today (Monday) when he was attacked by a stingray during the filming of an underwater documentary about the Great Barrier Reef. Rescuers who flew by helicopter to the site of the filming, Batt Reef, reported that Irwin was already dead when they arrived. They said that the cause of death appeared to be a "stingray strike to the chest." The Australian newspaper The Ageheadlined: "Crikey, Can the Crocodile Hunter Really Be Gone?" It wrote: "He made a career toying with some of the most aggressive and deadly creatures on the planet. But what killed Steve Irwin in the end was quite unexpected, a freakishly unlucky turn of events during what should have been an innocuous encounter with a timid ocean giant." The newspaper noted that only three confirmed stingray deaths have occurred in Australia in the past 68 years.


The operator of an English boutique for pets called Pimp My Pet figures that if Tom Cruise is no match for Viacom, neither is she. Liz Wilson has agreed to stop using the name for her shop after receiving a warning from the giant media company that its MTV unit, which airs the hit program Pimp My Ride, owns the "Pimp My ..." name. She told Britain's Guardiannewspaper that after she received a letter from Viacom attorneys, she concluded: "As Viacom just fired Tom Cruise, I thought they're obviously quite powerful." Besides, she said, "It was a choice of spending [about $800] to change the logo against thousands" for a legal defense.