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Mar 31, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Arnett Fired for Iraqi TV Interview

NBC News and has cut loose Peter Arnett, who had been reporting from Baghdad for NBC News and MSNBC. NBC said it was “wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV-especially at a time of war-and it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview.”

Today National Geographic Explorer also terminated its relationship with Mr. Arnett, who was on assignment for the cable program in Baghdad, where he is a household name. Controversy was created by an interview telecast Sunday on Iraqi TV in which Mr. Arnett talked about the increasing “challenge” to Pentagon strategies, how his reports carried word of “the determination of the Iraqi forces,” and how he has always “met unfailing courtesy and cooperation” from Iraq’s Ministry of Information.

In 1991 Mr. Arnett invited controversy when as a CNN correspondent he stayed behind after most foreign journalists left the Iraqi capital after the start of the Persian Gulf War. He became a lightning rod for conveying the Iraqi point of view, especially about the bombing of what the United States had said was a secret site at which nuclear weapons were being developed but which the Iraqis said was a baby milk factory.

Initially Sunday, NBC News appeared to be standing by Mr. Arnett, issuing a statement that described his comments as “analytical in nature” and the interview itself as something done as a “professional courtesy.”

Hours later, after an overnight phone conversation with NBC News President Neal Shapiro, Mr. Arnett spoke with Today co-host Matt Lauer and apologized repeatedly for what he called his “stupid misjudgment.”

“People may think I’m insane, but I’m not anti-military,” Mr. Arnett said.

Mr. Arnett and his crew are expected to leave Baghdad, but it was unclear when that will happen or what his future holds.

“There’s a small island, uninhabited, in the South Pacific I will swim to,” Mr. Arnett said.

Meanwhile, an NBC News spokeswoman said her organization, which has partnerships with British broadcaster ITN, Newsweek and The Washington Post, among others, said, “I think we still have more voices [in Baghdad] than anyone else.”

Food Network Announces New Programming: Food Network has dished out a dozen new series for 2003, including such reality fare as Date Plate, Jamie’s Kitchen, Into the Fire, Food Fight and Trivia Unwrapped. Highlight’s of Food’s new programming menu follow:

Date Plate (premieres April 2)-A dating game in which culinary skills count

Boy Meets Grill (May 17)-A barbecue cooking show

Food Fight (May 22)-A culinary team competition with unlikely opponents- bikers, say, vs. soccer moms

Roker on the Road (working title; for June)- NBC’s Al Roker is on the road, telling stories from the world of food

Trivia Unwrapped (Aug.)-A spinoff from the network’s Unwrapped

Jamie’s Kitchen: The Fifteen (working title; Oct.)-a limited series in which the chef trains a group of unemployed street kids to manage his restaurant

Into the Fire (fall 2003)-a limited reality series that looks at America’s top eateries

Dweezil & Lisa (Q1 2004)-a limited reality series in which the musician and the pop singer explore their passions for food

King of Iron Chefs Tournament (April 5 to May 5)-a five week face-off

Showtime Gives ‘Street Time’ A Second Chance: Showtime Networks has renewed Street Time, the gritty Sony Pictures Television series set in the world of parolees, for a second season.

The 13-episode new season debuts in August.

CNN Rotates On-Air Personnel: With the war in Iraq about to enter its third week, CNN is rotating some of its on-air troops in a move that is described as temporary and that means less airtime for Aaron Brown and a prime-time showcase for American Morning co-anchor Paula Zahn.

A new anchor lineup that deals with programming blocks between signature shows and that takes effect Tuesday relieves Mr. Brown of afternoon anchor duties and will let him focus on the extended (10 p.m.-to-2 a.m.) nightly telecasts of his signature show, NewsNight.

Ms. Zahn will appear from New York during the 8 a.m.-to-10 a.m. portions of American Morning and will co-anchor 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with Wolf Blitzer (in Kuwait) and Heidi Collins (in Atlanta). Holding down the 5 a.m.-to-8 a.m. hour will be Carol Costello (from Atlanta) and “Morning” co-host Bill Hemmer (from Kuwait). Mr. Hemmer will remain on the air until midday.

Judy Woodruff, Mr. Blitzer and Leon Harris (Atlanta) will anchor from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., when they will be joined by Ms. Collins. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Ms. Zahn, Mr. Blitzer and Ms. Collins will preside.

A spokesman confirming the lineup said that in reducing “an enormous workload” on Mr. Brown, the moves offer the idiosyncratic anchor a respite.

Fox’s Sunday Lineup Positive: Fox’s revamped sitcom block won Sunday night in adults 18 to 49, despite a mediocre debut by The Pitts. The Pitts, airing from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., finished third in the demo with a 3.8/8, behind NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent (5.2/12) and ABC’s Alias (4.5/10), according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate data. In its third week, Oliver Beene saw its ratings decline a bit, but it was still a good enough performance to win the time slot with a 4.4/10 and retain 83 percent of The Simpsons’ audience.

For the night, Fox won adults 18 to 49 with a 3.9/10, followed by NBC (3.5/9), ABC (3.4/8) and CBS (3.1/8). NBC won total viewers with 10.8 million, followed by CBS (10.3 million, ABC (9.4 million) and Fox (9.3 million).

WB Greets ‘Tucson’ On Fridays: The WB is bringing freshman sitcom Greetings From Tucson back to its schedule April 4. It will air Fridays at 8:30 p.m. The WB’s Friday night schedule will be What I Like About You at 8 p.m., Greetings at 8:30 p.m., Reba at 9 p.m. and Grounded For Life at 9:30 p.m.

NBC’s New Friday Lineup Wins Big: NBC won Friday night in adults 18 to 49 by a 43 percent margin and by 4.1 million viewers overall with its new lineup of America’s Most Talented Kid, Ed and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Kid debuted to a time slot win in adults 18 to 49 with a 3.6/11 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., beating second-place ABC’s America’s Funniest Videos (3.2/10). It also won in total viewers with 10.2 million. In its new Friday time slot from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., drama Ed won with a 3.2/9 and 10.2 million viewers. SVU was the highest-rated program of the night with a 5.1/16 rating in adults 18 to 49 and 12.6 million viewers.

ABC’s midseason sitcom Regular Joe didn’t fare very well in its first outing. It scored a 2.1/6 in adults 18 to 49 (fourth place in its 9:30 p.m.-to-10 p.m. time period) and brought in 6.4 million viewers (third place).

For the night, NBC won adults 18 to 49 with a 4.0/12, followed by CBS (2.8/9), ABC (2.6/8) and Fox (2.3/7). In total viewers, NBC won with 12.6 million, followed by ABC (8.5 million), CBS (8 million) and Fox (5.3 million).

‘X’ Marks the Spot for ‘Jamie Kennedy’: JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment had its most-watched episode last Thursday night with 3.9 million viewers. It also pulled its best numbers ever in all 12 to 34 and 18 to 34 demos. It scored a 2.1/7 in persons 12 to 34, a 2.2/6 in adults 18 to 34 and its best numbers among male teens with a 2.7/8. JKX ranked No. 2 in the time period among women 18 to 34 with a 2.6/7.