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TV Notes: 3/25/03

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Oscar telecast ranks the lowest since '74

The wartime Academy Awards telecast on ABC on Sunday night was the least-watched Oscar ceremony since Nielsen Media Research began keeping records in 1974.

An estimated 33.1 million people watched "Chicago" win best picture, Nielsen said yesterday, down sharply from the 41.8 million who watched the Oscars last year.

The Oscars toned down the glitz Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood because of the war with Iraq, and going into the weekend, there had been some question whether the ceremony would be held. That took its toll, said Larry Hyams, ABC's chief researcher.

"It was such a special instance, it's hard to speculate what it was beyond the war coverage," Hyams said. He noted that viewership has been sharply up for cable news networks covering the war full time.

The Academy Awards broadcast is often the most popular entertainment program of the year, but even last month's finale of "Joe Millionaire," with 40 million viewers, beat it this year.

The previous Oscar lows came in 1987, when 37.2 million people watched "Platoon" win best picture, and 37.8 million in 1986, when "Out of Africa" won.

Oscar's record was the 55.2 million viewers in 1998, when "Titanic" won.

(Associated Press)

War postponements

Prime-time programming has been upset since the beginning of the war, and that probably won't change anytime soon.

Although some nights the prime-time schedule has aired intact. Other times a news hour has been inserted or a block of programs pre-empted altogether.

NBC's "Ed," whose move to 9 p.m. Friday received a good bit of on-air promotion, saw its first episode pre-empted by war coverage last week. The show's three-week Friday run is now set to begin this week.

The war has derailed several ABC reality shows.

"The Family," airing at 10 p.m. Tuesdays, has been pulled and will likely re-launch in the summer. News specials will air tonight and next week. "NYPD Blue" returns to the time slot April 8.

ABC's "Are You Hot?" was pre-empted twice and will air back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. April 5.

ABC's low-rated Thursday night show, "Profiles From the Front Lines," a docudrama about American soldiers on the hunt for suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, has been pulled from the lineup. Three episodes remain unaired.

CBS's "Star Search" was interrupted midway through its finale last Wednesday, and it, too, will be rescheduled. No date yet.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

New to KDKA

KDKA-TV has hired a new meteorologist on a temporary, six-month basis.

Locke Roberts, formerly of ABC affiliate WPBF in West Palm Beach, Fla., and CBS affiliate KREX in Grand Junction, Colo., made his debut this past weekend on KDKA's Saturday morning news.

Channel 2 news director Al Blinke said Roberts will work for the station for the next six months, substituting for Rebecca Hower when she goes on maternity leave and doing vacation relief.

"After six months, we'll see what happens," Blinke said.

(R.O.)

Rogers' bridge?

State Rep. Jeffrey Habay, R-Allegheny, plans to introduce legislation to rename the Highland Park Bridge the Fred Rogers Memorial Bridge after the late children's show host. The bridge spans the Allegheny River between O'Hara and the city of Pittsburgh.

Habay said the legislation to rename the bridge could be introduced as early as next week.

(R.O.)

PRTC winners

The Pittsburgh Radio and Television Club will honor the following for outstanding achievement in broadcasting:

Patrice King Brown of KDKA-TV (TV award)

Lanny Frattare, Pittsburgh Pirates announcer (radio award)

Petra Arbutina of Blattner-Brunner (advertising/allied services award)

The Art Stein Memorial Award for Exemplary Service to the organization will be given to Mike Wolff of WPGH-TV. The Thomas J. MacWilliams Lifetime Achievement Award will go to the late Jack Fleming, longtime play-by-play man for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The club will present the awards at a black-tie dinner April 11 at Le Mont restaurant.

(R.O.)

WPXI wins award

Channel 11 won a regional Edward R. Murrow award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for spot news coverage of the miners trapped in a Somerset County mine last summer.

The Murrow awards, established in 1971, honor "outstanding achievement in electronic journalism."

(R.O.)

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