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The Independent Online
Is it open season on Rupert Murdoch? The American, sorry, Australian, media baron got both barrels last week from the same gun. Critic Ken Auletta used the New Yorker and a TV documentary to charge Murdoch with "piracy". In the New Yorker, Auletta wrote: "What Murdoch produces can be viewed as toxic to our democracy." Recent editions of Tina Brown's mag have been stylishly bland and Auletta's mugging of Murdoch may signal a new direction. Sources there say Murdoch PR drones were on the phone "constantly" in the weeks before publication, trying to flak Auletta's piece into the neutral zone. They failed.

Talent agency CAA has had more exits this month than a subway station. The empire of starmaker agent Mike Ovitz has been in semi-crisis since Ovitz left to run Walt Disney. Stars hate being associated with anything that might fail. "We're like a Hollywood restaurant that's no longer cool," said one source. The latest to cancel his reservation is Sylvester Stallone, hitching his rig instead to the new plat du jour - International Creative Management.

"Dog stops biting self." That should be the headline as US newspapers get smart. Several large dailies are now rejecting advertisements for the Internet, realising that readers are defecting to the bulletin boards. Last week the LA Times became the latest to just say no, turning down a $60,000 ad for a virtual job fair. Times spokeswoman Laura Morgan said the ad "directed readers to the Internet as their main source of information". US newspapers say so far this year ad revenues are 8 per cent lower than last. The Internet is cited as the main culprit.

When Julie Andrews returned to Broadway last month, her Victor/Victoria got some nasty reviews. Variety called it "bloodless". The international press was equally rude. The mismanagement of the opening night by publicist Peter Carmody may have whipped up some of the trouble. At the "gala event" international journalists were penned in the wrong spot to catch many arrivals. When photographers broke ranks to snap Joan Collins they were threatened by security guards. Then all non-US scribes were led to a dingy room to watch the show on TV. The monitor had no sound for the first 15 minutes. The international press was incensed to discover rows of empty seats in the auditorium. A Carmody employee who tried to persuade his boss to grant admission was met with an extraordinary tirade. "Think about it," Carmody said. "If you let one in you'll have to let them all in. Anyway, it's Americans who buy tickets."

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