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CBS cancels ‘60 Minutes’ Wednesday

Moonves says ratings, not National Guard story, behind decision
/ Source: The Associated Press

CBS said Wednesday it is cancelling the Wednesday edition of "60 Minutes," insisting the decision was made because of poor ratings and not last fall's ill-fated story about President Bush's military service.

Dan Rather, the newsmagazine's lead correspondent, will contribute stories to the Sunday edition of "60 Minutes," said CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves.

"This was a ratings call, not a content call," Moonves said Wednesday.

The newsmagazine spinoff was where Rather reported last September that Bush skirted some duty while in the Texas Air National Guard and a commander felt pressure to sugarcoat an evaluation of him. An independent panel later concluded that documents used in the story could not be verified.

Moonves said that story didn't figure in the decision to cancel it, "not even slightly."

"60 Minutes" Wednesday has been sinking in the ratings, a decline accelerated by the success of the ABC drama "Lost" in the same time slot. The show also has one of the oldest audiences in prime-time television, considered a turn-off to advertisers.

Moonves said CBS News President Andrew Heyward was telling his staff of the decision on Wednesday and it was too soon to tell if any layoffs will result.

CBS will likely run news specials during the year in prime-time, he said.

The show was Rather's home base since he stepped down as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" in March. While he will report for "60 Minutes," it's not clear whether he will become one of the correspondents pictured every week at the beginning of the show.