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Jury Still Out on Next Season’s American Idol Judges

For the past few days, Fox insiders have been privately telling reporters not to expect any big announcements about American Idol at the network's TCA session today. They weren't lying: Fox Über-boss Peter Rice spent 45 minutes repeatedly, but politely (he's British!) refusing to speculate one way or another about the widespread reports that the new AI panel will be made up of J.Lo, Steven Tyler, and Randy Jackson. "Much of the information [reported] has been accurate, and some of it has been wildly inaccurate," Rice told the assembled core of reporters. About the only fact Rice did confirm? "No one has a signed deal on either side of the camera to be on Idol next year who wasn't on it last year," he said.

While he wouldn't talk about who will or won't be on AI next season — nor would he even give Kara DioGuardi a vote of confidence — Rice did offer a tiny bit of insight into the selection process. He said Fox isn't testing or focus-grouping potential candidates. He also indicated that the new judges wouldn't be getting together in a room before signing their deals in order to test out their chemistry. "You can't construct any method to test that," he said. And, as evidenced by the apparent finalists, Fox has very much been interested in making sure the new judges have credibility: "Every person we've approached ... has a music-industry background."

Rice, despite taking some subtle swipes at outlets which have breathlessly covered the selection process, said he understood the fascination. "While some of you would love to see the reality show about the casting of American Idol, it's not responsible for us to run our business that way," he said. On the other hand, at least people are still buzzing about a series headed into its tenth season: "The chaos is a reminder of how intensely people feel about the show and how connected they are to it."

Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images