Clock Could Stop on 60 Minutes II

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Deep inside CBS, there have been discussions about canceling the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes, the newsmagazine where Dan Rather got into big trouble for using dubious documents in a report on President George W. Bush’s National Guard service.

That certainly damaged it at the network, but it’s not the main reason some CBS folks are turning against the show once dubbed “60 Minutes Junior.” Anemic ratings have been even more damaging to its long-term prospects.

While the show’s audience is relatively flat since last year, its ratings are down by a third in the key 18-49 demo since 2001. Indeed, as far back as last fall, some brass were lobbying to dump it in favor of younger-skewing reality fare, though a CBS rep says, “We don’t comment on rumor and speculation.”

The buzz inside the network is that Wednesday’s edition got a reprieve last spring with its exclusive report on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison. That piece was produced by Mary Mapes—the prime mover behind the notorious Bush/National Guard story. Now it could turn out that the same producer who saved “60 Junior” from the executioner’s axe helped put the show back on the chopping block.

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