Saturday, November 13, 2004


CBS news has fired the producer who cut into "CSI: NY" to report the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The staffer, a female senior producer, broke into the crime drama shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday with the report from "Up to the Minute" anchor Melissa McDermott, outraging viewers who missed the end of the show.

According to a source, the producer failed to follow standard procedures that require a senior CBS News executive to be consulted before interrupting regular programming. The fact Arafat already had been reported near death for several days also figured in the network's decision. The source said the producer disregarded explicit, advance instructions that breaking news of Arafat's death -- if it occurred during prime time -- was to be reported with a news "crawl" at the bottom of the screen.

"Arafat had been literally on his deathbed for a week. Everyone knew he was going to die. It was just a matter of when," the source said.

CBS apologized for the interruption Thursday, saying an "overly aggressive" staffer "jumped the gun on a report that should have been offered to local stations for their late news."

CBS declined to comment on the firing yesterday, but the network rebroadcast the episode last night.

If she broke explicit rules that had been set, then yeah, I guess I'd have to go along with the dismissal. But it's not like the infamous "Heidi" interruption of a football game back in the sixties. There wasn't much chance for the audience to get the info they missed before CBS re-broadcast the episode two nights later. With that live football game, the news of who won would have been revealed at any other source for information. And who really wants to see a taped replay of a game's finale... unless you're a 2004 Red Sox fan?

I'll be curious now to see what the ratings were for that 'CSI: NY' episode from both Wednesday and Friday night; to see how they stacked up.

CBS had already yanked 'dr. vegas' from that Friday timeslot for the November Sweeps.... I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the audience actually increased to watch the repeat of the episode after all the attention it got for being pre-empted!


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