News, July 16: New Oscar Rules Ban Negative Campaigns, “CSI” Stars Canned, Fox denies ripping off rivals, More…

New Oscar rules ban negative ad campaigns

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued some new rules yesterday aimed at curtailing negative Oscar campaigning, including a formal ban on ads by studios trashing the competition. According to The Associated Press, the move is a response to DreamWorks’ full-page ad in Daily Variety last season pushing House of Sand and Fog‘s Shohreh Aghdashloo for best supporting actress in a way that was perceived as a slap at fellow nominee Renee Zellweger from Cold Mountain. The Academy denounced the ad, which included clips from newspaper and TV critics saying that Aghdashloo deserved to win the Oscar but that Zellweger was more likely to get it, as an attack. DreamWorks apologized and later bought a special ad congratulating Zellweger on her win. Another rule addressed complaints from Oscar voters outside of Los Angeles and New York who say they have trouble seeing all the films necessary for an informed ballot. AMPAS has now authorized studios to send voters free passes or coupons, which members will be able to redeem at commercial theaters. The issue was part of last season’s debate over whether studios should discontinue sending voters screeners, or tapes and DVDs of current movies.

CSI stars let go from show

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation stars George Eads and Jorja Fox were fired from the show amid a salary dispute with the show’s producers. Sources told Reuters Eads and Fox, who have been on the show since its debut four years ago, had approached CBS about a salary increase for the 2004-2005 season. CBS reportedly offered a modest take-it-or-leave-it raise, and asked the cast to send in a formal letter assuring the network they would report to work as scheduled for the start of production on the show’s fifth season. It is unclear whether Eads and Fox had sent the letters, but both actors were sent a termination letter soon afterward. Sources said CBS brass stood their ground because of the growing number of cases where actors with contractual obligations to a show refuse to return to work until their salaries are renegotiated. Eads and Fox reportedly had two more seasons to go on their existing contracts.

Fox network denies ripping off rival network shows

Fox is denying allegations from rival networks NBC and ABC that it is copying their ideas for new reality shows, calling the accusations baseless and unacceptable. Fox came under fire after it unveiled a boxing reality series with Oscar de la Hoya after NBC announced its boxing series featuring Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone. Fox also announced a mate-swapping show after ABC said it would have a spouse-trading series. But Fox programming chief Gail Berman defended the network. “Just like scripted programming, the unscripted world has reached a point where multiple projects with similar themes are being pitched simultaneously,” she said. “This is the way television works. There’s nothing new about this. This is a competitive business.”

Thought you were too old for American Idol? Think again

Fox TV announced Thursday the age limit for American Idol contenders has been raised from 26 to 28. The network said they were prompted to raise the maximum age after seeing too many impressive older people turned away during the audition process, the AP repprts. The minimum remains at 16. Auditions for the fourth season of American Idol begin Aug. 4 in Cleveland. Other tryouts, which will continue through Oct. 5, will be held in Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Fla.; St. Louis, Mo.; New Orleans, Las Vegas, Anchorage and San Francisco.

Media’s appeal in Jackson case delayed

An appeal by 11 news media organizations requesting access to court information in the Michael Jackson child molestation case went unheard for a week because a clerk refused to place it on the court docket, the AP reports. Attorney Dominic Lanza said it took until Thursday to get the matter resolved. Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville has been keeping most evidence and documents in the case sealed, including a motion Wednesday in which Jackson‘s lawyers are asking to postpone the trial. Theodore Boutrous Jr., who is leading the legal team, asked that the concealment issues be resolved before hearings begin Aug. 16. “The public’s First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings and documents is one that is exceedingly time-sensitive,” he explained in a brief filed yesterday.

Critics say Nielsen meters undercount minorities

Critics of the way local TV audiences are measured told Congress Thursday that minorities are being undercounted, which could lead to the elimination of shows popular with blacks and Hispanics, the AP reports. Nielsen Media Research, an independent company based in New York, counts viewership on a national level by choosing a sample of homes and supplying “people meters” that record viewing habits. Nielsen chief executive Susan Whiting said the real problem is that some media companies fear the company’s new counting method, which replaces handwritten diaries kept by “Nielsen families,” will produce lower ratings for their shows, and in turn, less advertising money.

U2 tracks go missing in France

A CD of recordings from rock band U2’s upcoming album has gone missing in France, raising concerns it will be pirated on the Internet ahead of the release date, Reuters reports. According to U2’s official Web site, the CD disappeared from a recording studio in Nice, where the band was doing a photo shoot. “A large slice of two years’ work lifted via a piece of round plastic. It doesn’t seem credible but that’s what’s just happened to us,” lead guitarist The Edge wrote on their Web site. French police have launched a major investigation to find the CD. Band manager Paul McGuinness told Reuters the band is excited about the album’s release, but added: “It would be a shame if unfinished work fell into the wrong hands.”

Prince’s new lyrics to be less sexual

The artist currently known as Prince says he has turned a new leaf–one that doesn’t contain sexually explicit lyrics. The 46-year-old singer/songwriter, whose songs include “Gett Off” and “Erotic City,” says he’s moving away from the erotic lyrics of the past. “I have a responsibility to (young fans) to perform in a manner that I would like my children to be performed in front of,” he said in an interview to air Tuesday on CBS News’ The Early Show. “I just want to be the best human being I can be … on stage and off.” Ironically, Prince is listed as the No. 1 “greatest rock frontman” of all time in the August issue of Spin magazine and, in a vote of editors, earned a 10 out of 10 for sex appeal and for singing like an “oversexed elf.”

David Bowie tops mid-year touring grosses

David Bowie‘s North American A Reality tour was the top-grossing outfit for the first half of 2004, Reuters reports. According to numbers reported to Billboard Boxscore, Bowie took in $45.4 million from 82 shows that drew 722,158 fans. The veteran rock star was recently forced to cancel the final 10 dates on the European leg of his tour after receiving emergency heart surgery for a blocked artery. Other top tours between Nov. 19, 2003, and May 18, 2004, include Bette Midler ($40 million), Simon & Garfunkel ($36 million), Shania Twain ($34 million), Prince ($26 million), Rod Stewart ($25 million), Metallica ($22 million), Beyonce/Alicia Keys/Missy Elliott ($19 million), Britney Spears ($19 million) and George Strait ($16 million).