MOGUL'S LATEST: Rupert Murdoch will finally be able to beam his way into American homes. The Fox media baron has agreed to merge his News Corp.'s fledgling U.S. satellite operation with the industry's No. 2 player, Primestar.

SLAM DUNK: The ongoing Chicago Bulls-Utah Jazz NBA Finals series helped NBC stuff the competition--giving TV-land's Peacock the widest margin of victory ever enjoyed by a network in a Nielsen race. Overall, ratings for the NBA finals are down 4 percent.

MORE TOM: Tom Snyder will be staying up late at least through 1998. CBS has renewed Snyder's Late Late Show for a fourth season.

PIANO MAN: Billy Joel has recorded a new Bob Dylan song, "To Make You Feel My Love," for an upcoming greatest hits album.

TAPS: The Korean mobile surgical unit that inspired MASH officially closed today, as actors Larry Linville and David Ogden Stiers looked on. The army band played the show's theme to honor the unit and its Hollywood connection.

MEDIATING: Vice President Al Gore says he will mediate the bitter battle over the system to rate television programs.

ARTFUL DODGER: Screen superhero Harrison Ford says he avoided fighting in the Vietnam War by pretending to be a conscientious objector. Ford, who will play the President of the U.S. in the upcoming Air Force One, told Movieline that he dodged the draft during the late 1960s while he was a struggling actor just out of college.

MAGIC'S MAN: Comedian-actor Barry Sobel (227) has been tapped to play sidekick on basketball legend Magic Johnson's new, syndicated talk-variety show. The show hits the airwaves in early 1998.

LITTLE HOUSE, BIG SCREEN: Universal Pictures has bought the rights to Laura Ingalls Wilder's nine Little House books for a film to be written by two-time Oscar winner Horton Foote.

RHAPSODY RESTORED: Tonight, the Boston Pops Orchestra will premiere a newly restored version of George Gershwin's classic "Rhapsody in Blue." Gershwin's music editor chopped four minutes from the piece in the 1920s because he felt the passages were too difficult to play.

COUNTRYFEST: Teen country queen LeAnn Rimes will serve as host and perform at Countryfest '97--a special featuring concert performances by Vince Gill, Neal McCoy, Wynonna and others. The show will be taped on June 14 for broadcast on CBS August 6.

GETTING "SHRUNK": Peter Scolari (Newhart) will play the nutty, inventor dad made famous by Rick Moranis in the movies when he headlines a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The Series, an hourlong syndicated series from Disney debuting this fall. For all the casting news, see The Dotted Line.

BOSOM BUDDIES?: The Los Angeles Times was witness to an unlikley coffee klatch yesterday: Porn publisher Larry Flynt and conservative pastor Jerry Falwell--making nice and sipping java in Flynt's L.A. office. Flynt and Falwell's legal tangles over the First Ammendment were the basis for The People Vs. Larry Flynt.

PAYING TRIBUTE: The family of Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Gerald Levin will establish a media academy at the tough Bronx high school where Levin's son, Jonathan, worked as a teacher. Jonathan Levin, 31, was killed last month--allegedly by a former student and and associate who wanted the man's ATM card.

BIG PICTURE: The future is now--or at least nearer. HBO has become the first cable company to announce the introduction of digital high-definition TV programming (known as HDTV), starting next summer.

OLD PROS: Bob Eubanks will return to his rightful throne on The Newlywed Game, and Chuck Woolery, he of The Love Connection and countless others, will move into The Dating Game in the fall. Eubanks and Woolery replace a pair of younger hosts who guided the syndicated game shows last season.

FESTIVAL FAVORITE: Underground, the celebrated indie of the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, is finally going to surface in the United States. New Yorker Films has picked up the U.S. distribution rights to the film, which makes its American debut June 20 in New York.

DR. DEATH SWINGS! Jack Kevorkian--the so-called suicide doctor--has released a collection of his jazz tunes called A Very Still Life.

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