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HDNet's Mark Cuban Stands by His Dan

Dan Ratherstill has Mark Cuban in his corner.

Back in June 2006, when the former anchor's 44-year career at CBS News imploded over his flawed 2004 report on President Bush's National Guard service, Cuban helped to break the fall by hiring Rather to report for his high-definition channel HDNet.

And now that Rather has filed a $70-million lawsuit against CBS and its top executives (including CBS Corp. Chairman Sumner Redstone and President/CEO Leslie Moonves), Cuban is standing by him.

Given that Rather claims the network impugned his journalistic bona fides by making him the fall guy for the much-maligned report, how does Cuban feel about the newsman's reputation?

“All I care about is that Dan does great work for us, which he does,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

Although Dan Rather Reports is available to only 6 million HDNet subscribers, Cuban says that it “blows away any news show on CBS, including 60 Minutes. His work stands on its own.”

The outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team—and contestant on this fall's season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars—had more choice words for CBS, comparing the network's treatment of Rather to that of embattled former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight.

“They handled the situation wrong and so did CBS,” he fumed. “Why would any organization ever treat a long-term employee the way they treated Dan?”

Dirty 'War'

Last June's circuit court ruling may have taken the bite out of the FCC's clampdown on cussing, but PBS still sees a few fangs.

For the nightly debut broadcasts of Ken Burns' The War, beginning Sept. 23, PBS will offer both edited and unedited feeds of the WWII doc to its member stations.

But for those planning to re-air episodes in a weekend “stack,” during the afternoon “safe harbor,” PBS will only offer the edited feed—minus four curse words that crop up in parts Two and Five (as in the explanations of the acronyms Snafu and Fubar).

“Conceivably a 4-year-old could watch it,” says PBS spokeswoman Lea Sloan, “and it would be going right into the teeth of the FCC.”

For its multiple re-airings across its analog and digital channels, WGBH Boston will stick to the edited feed, says WGBH Director of Programming Ron Bachman—so “we don't inadvertently find ourselves in hot water with the FCC.”

WETA Washington, D.C. will likewise go with the edited feed for its weekend stacking.

What with all this FCC-phobia in the air, the irony didn't escape us when Burns recently praised WETA President/CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller for helping to create a hospitable climate for his work. After all, it was her husband, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who introduced a bill to give the FCC explicit authority to fine broadcasters for fleeting profanities.

Velocity Girl

For its new show, Sports Science, FSN brought in Finch, an Olympic gold medalist who has fanned many a major-league baseball player, to test who throws with greater force: a baseball or softball pitcher.

After hooking her up with motion capture sensors and directing her to fire softballs at a camera stationed behind a Plexiglas panel, the producers laughed when Finch predicted, “I'm going to break your gear.”

But, sure enough, after a few warm-ups, she fired…and shattered the Plexiglas.

The pitching experiment was never completed, but Sports Science will conduct others to explore scientific questions about professional sports—such as whether a linebacker hitting a quarterback can have more impact than a car crash.

Among the athletes set to be part of the show, which airs Sundays beginning Sept. 30, are the NFL's Jerry Rice, the NBA's Cuttino Mobley, Ultimate Fighting Championship star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Women's World Cup star Abby Wambach.

With Marisa Guthrie, John Eggerton and Ben Grossman

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