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In the Loop

To Catch a Thief

Lots of people want to gossip with Comcast Executive VP of Government and Other Corporate Affairs David Cohen about the scandal over the FBI's bugging of the Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street for reasons as yet undisclosed. Some have commented that Cohen should be thankful his office wasn't bugged while he was chief of staff for ex-Mayor (now Pennsylvania Gov.) Ed Rendell. Cohen's reply: "But it was." The FBI had a wire and camera in his office for 18 months to snag a businessman peddling a scam. Cohen was the snitch, not the target: "I was a cooperating witness." Donald Rishell claimed he could guarantee the city a 60% return on money invested with him, enough to fund a plan to help revive the Philadelphia shipyard. All Cohen had to do was give him $500 million. In cash. Upfront. As silly as it sounds, Rishell and a German partner's pitch succeeded with officials in other governments. "I believe they got someone in Malaysia to 'deposit' $100 million."—J.M.H.

Cher Makes Her Point

C-SPAN's phones lit up with calls from media outlets last Monday after an unusual little scene took place during
Washington Journal, the network's morning issues/call-in show. A woman phoning from Miami Beach, Fla., expressed concern over the large number of wounded U.S. troops coming back from Iraq. The woman said she had just spent a day visiting the wounded at Walter Reed Medical Center. There she learned that many are being injured because Humvees crumple "like tin cans" when hit with rockets. Pressed for why she had been invited to Walter Reed, the woman demurred, saying only that she was "an entertainer." Thinking he recognized her voice, host Peter Slen asked, "Are you Cher?" "Yeah," she replied.

Wandering Wallace

Some eyebrows were raised when ABC's Chris Wallace signed on to become the new host of Fox News Sunday.
But Wallace says, the way he sees it, except for Fox, the TV news business seems to be retrenching.

A veteran of ABC and NBC News, Wallace says he is a "a straight newsman" who used to harbor some conceptions that Fox "has a political agenda." But, after studying Fox's war coverage last spring, he concluded that the net's hard news is "even-handed, thoughtful and aggressive." He knows some news folks gag when they hear Fox's "Fair and Balanced" mantra, but Wallace buys in. He interprets it as "report honestly and openly but start with an open mind. I can't think of a better credo for any journalist." By the way, his dad, CBS veteran Mike Wallace, gave his blessing.—A.R.

Courting Disaster

Twentieth Television's Divorce Court
postponed its planned tapings last week because Joe Catalano, the show's bailiff, was spending 14-hour days fighting raging fires in Crestline, Calif., near his family's home. Besides the show, Catalano works in law enforcement in San Bernadino County. Although the fire was threatening his own home, he had been too busy helping to evacuate the area and helping fire fighters to return home to see if his house was still standing. "I have to worry about my family and home, but, on a professional level, we have to take care of the public," he said in an e-mail to producers.—P.A.

E!nough News

It seems an hour-long helping of entertainment news each night is too much even for the biggest fans. Beginning Nov. 3, E! Entertainment Television is cutting back
E! News Live
from an hour to a half-hour Monday-Thursday. The Friday and weekend editions will remain an hour.
"We've seen it works better as a tight, fast-paced show during the week," explained Mark Sonnenberg, president of entertainment.

Ratings, he noted, are typically strong for the first half-hour, then fall off. In October, E! News, hosted by Giuliana DePandi and Patrick Stinson (above), rated as high as a 0.7 but sank as low as a 0.2. Sonnenberg plans to package the half-hour version with celeb-focused originals like It's Good To Be
or Celebrities Uncensored. That, he says, "will give us a much tighter hour."—A.R.