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Double-anchor act all at sea

Nothing of particular note was expected on the CBS news last night. But the show was guaranteed its best ratings in years: all because of a missing anchorwoman, Connie Chung.

Two years ago she was brought in to co-anchor the main news programme with Dan Rather.Now she is gone - and livid. The double-anchor experiment was meant to boost ratings but it was a flop. Rumours circulated about testy relations between Ms Chung and Mr Rather. Ratings fell further, putting CBS news far behind NBC and ABC.

Ms Chung claimed she was being punished for broader CBS problems and raised sexism as a possible factor. She rejected the offer of a lesser role. "In 1995 ... it's inappropriate for the only woman on the three major network programmes to have anything less than full and equal status." Mr Rather fired back: "This has about as much to do with gender as mustard does with ice-cream. This was a decent experiment. We tried to make it work and it didn't work."

Ms Chung's star began to dim after an interview with Newt Gingrich's mother in January on her own news magazine programme. She cajoled Mrs Gingrich to "whisper" what her son thought of Hillary Clinton. Loud enough for all to hear, she replied "Bitch". An avalanche of criticism ensued. The row was expected to give CBS a ratings fillip but the future remains bleak and, even alone again, Mr Rather is not likely to be able to do much to reverse that.