Questions about when CBS will air the fourth edition of its high-class reality TV show The Amazing Race continue to swirl around the world. CBS had initially announced that the show would be aired beginning March 12, and this information was dutifully reported on sites elsewhere in the world. However, as March came and went, broadcasters elsewhere were forced to alter their plans.

The Asian TV network AXN posted a Web page explaining that CBS had delayed the show and that the new tentative broadcast time was June-August 2003 (see the answer to the second question). In a discussion with CBS promotion sources this week, however, was informed that the show's air time has still not been confirmed.

Since much of the summer schedule has already been announced, and since the open casting calls for Big Brother 4, also scheduled to be aired on CBS this summer, just closed, we wondered what this lack of a schedule could mean. So we contacted online reality TV expert Paul Decker for an analysis of the situation. Here are his comments:

"My opinion is that CBS will hold The Amazing Race 4 until the start of the 2004 season in September 2003. By so doing, CBS thinks it will receive two benefits. First, by that point, it hopes that a lot of the lousy reality TV shows being rush-developed by the networks as part of the "reality boom" will have played themselves out. Second, CBS hopes that the world will be safe for global traveling again."

"This summer schedule is crowded with quicky reality projects, but every producer thinks he or she has the next Survivor or American Idol. CBS head Les Moonves has commented several times that, in Survivor and The Amazing Race, his network has the gold standards for reality shows. He's right, and it doesn't seem likely that CBS will turn one of its gold standards into a summer replacement to give legitimacy to the newcomers."

"More importantly, the producers of The Amazing Race probably want to start producing the next series while the current series is airing. However, The Amazing Race is the most dangerous reality show to film globally. The contestants travel with a cameraman and a soundman in four-person packs that spend a lot of their time lost and mingling in foreign countries. These packs have no real protection from any type of hostility or terrorism. Thus, you simply could not film this show during the build-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom or during the immediate aftermath. And now we have the global SARS scare, which puts China, Singapore and Hong Kong off-limits."

"The only way this show is going to appear on the fall schedule is either if CBS films a "quickie" version after SARS is contained, but it hasn't even started to cast that yet, or if CBS holds the existing series for fall broadcast."

Decker also thinks that making the show into a summer replacement, as CBS has done with Big Brother, would prove politically impossible for CBS. "Jerry Bruckheimer produces the CSI franchise for CBS as well as The Amazing Race. It's impossible for me to believe that CBS would choose to antagonize him by knocking this show off the fall schedule."

We'll keep you advised as to whether the facts ultimately support Decker's opinions.