Murdoch Apologizes to Amanpour … The Concert for New York’s Biggest Star … Attack of the Virtual Ads

Wednesday, Oct. 31

Rupert Murdoch has personally apologized to Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, for a recent column written by New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, The Observer has learned.

Mr. Murdoch’s apology was prompted by Ms. Peyser’s Sept. 21 column, in which the writer referred to Ms. Amanpour as a “CNN war slut.”

That line-as well as another passage in which Ms. Peyser accused Ms. Amanpour of bias and wondered what the reporter’s “Jewish in-laws think”-outraged friends and colleagues of the CNN correspondent, who lives in London with her husband, former State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin.

Ms. Amanpour, who was reporting in Pakistan when Ms. Peyser’s column appeared, was troubled by it, too. Not long afterward, she expressed her feelings in a letter to Mr. Murdoch.

Mr. Murdoch then faxed Ms. Amanpour a reply.

A source close to News Corp. said that in the letter, Mr. Murdoch expressed regret for Ms. Peyser’s column, but noted that he does not control the writing of Post staffers. The letter also mentioned that Mr. Murdoch has been called worse things by CNN founder Ted Turner, the source said.

Reached overseas, Ms. Amanpour confirmed to The Observer that she had received Mr. Murdoch’s apology. “While I would not like to reveal details of my correspondence with Mr. Murdoch, I will say I was entirely satisfied with his reaction to the highly inappropriate, vulgar language used by Ms. Peyser to describe me,” she wrote in an e-mail message.

Ms. Amanpour did note, however, that she found Mr. Murdoch’s line about Mr. Turner to be “hilarious.”

A spokesperson for the Post and News Corp. said that neither organization had any comment on the matter. Ms. Peyser did not return two phone messages left for her at the Post .

Oh, well. If Ms. Peyser doesn’t like Ms. Amanpour, at least Gwynnie Paltrow does. “I just think she’s totally punk rock,” the actress gushes in the new issue of Harper’s Bazaar . “And brilliant and sexy and so cool.”

Wrote Ms. Amanpour of Ms. Paltrow’s comment: “I am amused and flattered … and my colleagues on the road can’t wait for Gwyneth to change places with me!”

Tonight on CNN, Larry King personally apologizes for his tie. Larry King Live . [CNN, 10, 9 p.m.]

Thursday, Nov. 1

Crikey! It does seem tenser than usual between News Corp. and archrival CNN. In addition to the Peyser-Amanpour contretemps, there’s now word that a rising star at the Post , editor Jon Auerbach, has decided to bail to CNN.

Mr. Auerbach was one of the young-buck newsroom beneficiaries when the Post was de–Xana Antunesized and incoming editor Col Allan sacked a handful of editors and reporters. Formerly the paper’s metro editor, Mr. Auerbach was named the paper’s assistant managing editor after Mr. Allan’s Post -letting.

Apparently, that promotion wasn’t enough to make Mr. Auerbach happy. Sometime this summer, he privately began talks with the dark side-namely CNN’s David Bohrman, who was assembling Aaron Brown’s CNN big-news blast at 10 p.m. Those talks broke off in the aftermath of Sept. 11, but recently reheated.

Mr. Auerbach plans to be a producer on Mr. Brown’s show, which is to be titled NewsNight with Aaron Brown . (Boy, they must have focus-grouped the hell out of that title.) Though a CNN executive would say only that the network was in discussions and expects him to be on board “shortly,” Mr. Auerbach has already broken the news to the Post that he’s out of there.

“This is a great chance to go into television. Aaron Brown’s a huge guy, and David Bohrman seems like a guy to get to know TV from,” Mr. Auerbach told The Observer’ s Gabriel Snyder.

“Jon will be leaving to go into television. He’s a great professional, and we wish him well in his new career,” The Post said of Mr. Auerbach’s departure.

Of course, they probably don’t give a roo’s tail about any of this over there, since they’re so slap-happy about their impressive 22 percent circulation rise.

Tonight on News Corp.’s Fox News Channel, Bill O’Reilly instructs anthrax-paranoid viewers that a great way to calm their nerves is to sit back and relax with a hardcover copy of his new book, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America , just $17.46 on Amazon.com. The O’Reilly Factor . [FNC, 46, 8 p.m.]

Friday, Nov. 2

For those of you who missed it, Viacom baby CBS is showing an edited rebroadcast of the Concert for New York benefit. You remember-the star-clotted hoo-ha at Madison Square Garden that raised money for the 9/11 fund. Originally simulcast live on VH1 on Oct. 20, CBS is airing a one-hour CFNY special on Wed., Oct. 31. You’ll see performances by Billy Joel, Paul McCartney and Elton John, among others.

Barring a last-minute change, here’s what you won’t see in the CBS special: New York firefighter Michael Moran, who stole the show when he climbed on the Garden stage, announced he was from “Rockaway, bitch !” and told Osama bin Laden to kiss his “royal Irish ass.”

Mr. Moran’s wonderfully honest outburst-one of the true New York moments since Sept. 11-took the stuffing out of the celeb-laden concert. It also made the firefighter-who lost a brother, also of the FDNY, in the World Trade Center attack-something of a mini-celebrity. A few days after his impromptu Garden speech, Mr. Moran popped up on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

A CBS spokesman said that he didn’t think Mr. Moran’s speech was going to be in the network’s concert special, which he said would focus on the music. “More than likely, it [the Moran speech] is not in there,” the CBS spokesman said.

Ah, well, kiss Elton’s royal ass instead. Tonight on CBS, Emmy hostess Ellen DeGeneres’ latest lame-legged vehicle, The Ellen Show . Wonder how long this puppy is going to last in Mel Karmazin-land, where 450 MTV employees just got a Doc Marten boot to the curb. [WCBS, 2, 8 p.m.]]

Saturday, Nov. 3

If you’re like NYTV, you don’t turn to the World Series to find out which plucky team will triumph as baseball’s best. You turn to the Fall Classic to find out what hot new shows are coming up on the Fox Network! And wowzers, is Fox piling on the in-house promotion this year. It seems like you can’t go one Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter ground-out without knowing that Ally McBeal is back Mondays at 9!

The main offender is Fox’s new “virtual ads” behind home plate. Launched during the 2001 Major League All-Star Game and now being used in the Series for the first time, the virtual ads use a “green screen”-the thing they use in movies to make it look like someone’s being chased by Godzilla-to stick a colorful horizontal ad behind the umpire’s butt.

The problemo is, the virtual ad’s composition against the live action is still a little fuzzy, so it winds up making a pitcher-batter sequence look a tad ersatz and cheesy, like a scene from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes .

Of course, the company behind these ads, an outfit called Sportvision, thinks they’re just ducky.

“We think there are applications that make sense for advertisers who want to get display within a broadcast,” said Jaan Janes, Sportvision’s vice president for sales and business development. “We have worked closely with Fox and Major League Baseball.”

But what do the fans think? Lou D’Ermilio, a spokesman for Fox Sports, said that he hadn’t received a single phone call about the virtual ads.

Interestingly, Sportvision and Fox are currently at odds with regards to the network’s decision to get rid of that yellow “first-and-10″ line in N.F.L. football telecasts. You know, that’s the silly-looking stripe that’s electronically superimposed on the field to show home viewers how many yards remain for a first down. Fox decided it cost too much-apparently, it’s like $25,000 a game-and spiked the line.

Mr. Janes said he’s hopeful that Fox will come around and figure out a way to get the line into its N.F.L. broadcasts. He noted that Fox Sports Net does use a line in its college-football telecasts, but that’s because the NCAA allows networks to sell sponsorship rights to the line for telecasts. The N.F.L., he said, does not.

“I can’t speak to the issues that they [Fox] face internally, but we know it [the line] is a technology that is really important to the fans,” Mr. Janes said.

Mr. D’Ermilio agreed that fans like the line, and said that the decision to cut it was dictated strictly by economics. But, he noted, “ultimately, despite whether the little yellow line is there or not there, first downs will either be made or stopped on the field, and the referee’s chain has got final say.”

That’s right-and the Giants and the Jets are still going to be mediocre, so don’t expect a yellow line to make life any better!

Tonight on Fox, Game 6 of the World Series . This is assuming, of course, that the Yankees haven’t been drummed out of this thing and there is a Game 6 of the World Series . Which raises another question: Do you think Sportvision could come up with a “virtual” Chuck Knoblauch? [WNYW, 5, 7:30 p.m.]

Sunday, Nov. 4

Tonight, CBS takes another crack at broadcasting the Emmy Awards . The gang from the Late Show with David Letterman ‘s not going; neither are the fine chaps from The Daily Show . But remember, CBS: If you don’t give out these meaningless trinkets, that’s just letting the terrorists win! [WCBS, 2, 8 p.m.]

Monday, Nov. 5 Tonight on Fox, Ally McBeal . Of course, you know Ally McBeal is on Monday nights at 9, because Joe Buck told you 36 BILLION TIMES during the World Series. [WNYW, 5, 9 p.m.]

Tuesday, Nov. 6

Tonight on the WB, a cool new show called Smallville . Smallville is this season’s show that your Friend Who Watches Too Much TV tells you is “really good, you should check it out.” To which you respond: “Are you a total freak? Aren’t you watching the news, like, 24 hours a day ?” [WPIX, 11, 9 p.m.]