telecomm headlines

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 25 May 2000 08:22:58 -0700 (PDT)

CARTOONS THAT AREN'T FOR KIDS
Issue: Media & Society
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the
Harvard School of Public Health is recommending that the Motion Picture
Association of America amend its rating system to reflect the content of
movies, a change to the current system that only reflects age categories.
Social researchers at Harvard were moved to call for the change after
completing a review of 74 G-rated animated movies released since 1937. The
researcher found that the length of times spent portraying violence -
"intentional acts where the aggressor make some physical contact that has
potential to inflict injury or harm" - grew dramatically in the 1990s. While
the authors noted a steady increase in violence since 1937, 9 of the 10 most
violent features were released in 1990 or after. "A G rating does not
automatically signify a level of violence acceptable for very young
viewers," wrote the study's authors. The Harvard study is the first to
attempt to systematically document acts of violence in more than 60 years.
[SOURCE: Washington Post (C01), AUTHOR: Paul Fahri]
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59337-2000May23.html

NO BIG SURGE IN SEX PROGRAMS IS EXPECTED FROM CABLE RULING
Issue: Cable
The Supreme Court's decision on Monday striking down a law that required
many cable systems to limit sexually explicit channels to late-night hours
will most likely reap a modest increase in profits for programmers but is
not expected to hasten a vast explosion of sexually oriented material on
cable. "I view this primarily as a technical ruling that is more important
for its First Amendment implications," said Chris Dixon, a media analyst for
PaineWebber. "The problem is not whether or not programming is appropriate,
it's whether or not there is space available on the dial or on the set-top
box." Some believe the FCC's rule would have been obsolete within a few
years anyway, as scrambling became universally effective. The ruling really
only affects cable systems that reach ~18 million subscribers.
[SOURCE: New York Times (A14), AUTHOR: Jim Rutenburg]
(http://www.nytimes.com/library/politics/scotus/articles/052400cable-review.
html)
See Also:
STATEMENT OF FCC CHAIRMAN WILLIAM E. KENNARD ON USA V. PLAYBOY ENTERTAINMENT
GROUP
[SOURCE: FCC]
(http://www.fcc.gov/Speeches/Kennard/Statements/2000/stwek039.html)

RESTRAINTS ON TV SEX STRUCK DOWN
Issue: Cable
The Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 1996 Telecommunications Act
which required cable providers to "fully scramble" cable signals or
otherwise schedule sexually explicit material at times when it would be less
accessible to children. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writes, "[The law]
silences the protected speech for two-thirds of the day in every home in a
cable service area, regardless of the presence or likely presence of
children or of the wishes of the viewers. . . . To prohibit this much speech
is a significant restriction of communication between speakers and willing
adult listeners, communication which enjoys First Amendment protection... If
a less restrictive means is available for the government to achieve its
goals, the government must use it." The Court found that another section of
the Act, which requires cable operators to block any cable channel at the
request of a subscriber, was deemed to be a "less restrictive" means to
achieve the same goal. The decision was seen as a victory for civil
libertarians, the Playboy TV Network and Spice Network. But conservative
groups were dismayed. Janet LaRue, senior director of legal studies at the
Family Research Council, said "it's a sad day when the protection of
children and unconsenting adults takes a back seat to the profit of cable
pornographers."
[SOURCE: Washington Post (A01), Author: Edward Walsh and Amy Goldstein]
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52014-2000May22.html)
See Also:
CABLE SHOWS AND FREE SPEECH
[SOURCE: New York Times (A30), AUTHOR: New York Times Editorial Staff]
(http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/editorial/23tue3.html)

PPEALS COURT UPHOLDS CONSTITUTIONALITY OF RULES LIMITING CABLE-TV OWNERSHIP
Issue: Cable
A U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the constitutionality of rules limiting
nationwide ownership of cable-television systems. The decision comes in
response to challenges by Time Warner Inc. to the 1992 Cable Act and the
rules subsequently set by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC's
rules prevent any one company from serving more than 30% of the nation's
cable subscribers. While the court hasn't yet ruled on whether the FCC's
rules are appropriate, the decision upholds the cable act's ability to limit
ownership to protect program diversity and competition. Andrew Schwartzman
of the Media Access Project, a Washington public-interest law firm that
joined the FCC in defending the law, believes that AT&T is already slightly
over the 30 percent limit, even before the approval of its merger with
MediaOne Group, which would catapult it reach to 42 percent . Judge Douglas
H. Ginsburg rejected arguments that ownership limits violated Time Warner's
free-speech rights. Congress "drew reasonable inferences, based on
substantial evidence, that increases in the concentration of cable operators
threatened diversity and competition in the cable industry," he wrote.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B8), AUTHOR: Mark Wigfield]
(http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB958764649215483733.htm)
See Also:
US APPEALS COURT DECISION UPHOLDS STATUTE ON CABLE TV OWNERSHIP LIMITS
[SOURCE: FCC]
(http://www.fcc.gov/Speeches/Kennard/Statements/2000/stwek038.html)
(http://www.fcc.gov/Speeches/Tristani/Statements/2000/stgt027.html)
COURT RULING ON CABLE OWNERSHIP A "HUGE VICTORY" FOR CONSUMERS
[SOURCE: Consumers Union]
(http://www.consumersunion.org/telecom/courtdc500.htm)

TV NETWORKS ADDING SOME COLOR FOR FALL
Issue: Television/Diversity
Perhaps the biggest news surrounding the recent unveiling of the major
networks fall prime-time lineups is that three African American men and one
Hispanic man will star in new series. While TV screens will hardly be awash
in color come autumn, there will be four more characters of color than last
year, when the broadcasters unveiled 26 new shows for fall 1999 with not a
single black, Latino or Asian actor or actress in any lead role. The NAACP,
which spearheaded protests by a coalition of minority organizations last
summer, declined to comment on the new fall lineup. But a representative for
a Hispanic coalition was furious. "Is one Latino actor going to make an
entire 12 percent of the [U.S.] population happy? I think not," said Alex
Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition in Los Angeles.
"If this is all it is, we are sorely disappointed. We're not doing this
exercise of signing memoranda of understanding with the networks so that
when it comes to Latinos we have a repetition of last year's numbers."
[SOURCE: Washington Post (A1) May 21, AUTHOR: ]
(http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41646-2000May20.html)

PARAMOUNT SWIMS AGAINST TIDE BY PUTTING SCHLESSINGER ON TV
Issue: Media & Society
A number of successful TV shows have homosexual characters and Fox has a new
show featuring a gay character set for next fall. In this environment, some
are asking why Paramount is thinking about introducing a syndicated talk
show with Dr. Laura Schlessinger who has shared stern anti-homosexual
declarations with her radio audience. "Offending gay people is not
acceptable the way it may have been even five years ago," said Paul Poux,
principal at the Poux Company in New York, an agency specializing in
marketing to gay consumers. "Advertisers are becoming more aware of all
their customers," he added, "so maybe standards for talking about gay people
are being brought into line with those for other groups." Procter & Gamble,
the nation's 2nd-largest advertiser, announced that it will not advertise on
Schlessinger's show; many advertisers "would not go below the standards" of
a marketing giant like P.& G., said Gene DeWitt, chairman and chief
executive at Optimedia International U.S. Asked whether Paramount executives
would suspend production of the show at this point, Mr. DeWitt replied, "Not
if they can still make money." "Morality may have moved as far West as
Cincinnati," he added, referring to the headquarters of Procter & Gamble,
"but it hasn't made it to the Coast yet."
[SOURCE: New York Times (C17), AUTHOR: Stuart Elliot]
(http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/news/financial/schlessinger-tv.html)

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

REPORT PROPOSES UPDATE OF COPYRIGHT ACT
Issue: Intellectual Property
The Progressive Policy Institute, which is affiliated with the Democratic
Leadership Council, is recommending that a law meant to protect intellectual
property on the Internet needs to be updated. A policy brief, "Napster and
Online Piracy: The Need to Revisit the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,"
will released on Monday in preparation for the House Small Business
Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday to examine Internet music
technologies. The report proposes outlawing technologies like the
controversial Napster software, which enables Internet users to trade music
files with little regard to copyrights. The report recommends that the
digital copyright law be amended "to hold Napster, its users, and similar
services accountable for copyright violations while maintaining protections
from liability for service providers that are innocent bystanders to digital
piracy." The civil libertarian community, on the other hand, opposes any
such limits on access to works that belong in the public domain. "To say you
are going to take a whole new category of software and strangle it in its
infancy because one of its first uses resulted in piracy -- that's a bad
idea," said John Gilmore, president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
an online liberties group based in San Francisco.
[SOURCE: New York Times (C6), AUTHOR: Jeri Clausing (jeri@nytimes.com)]
(http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/05/biztech/articles/22naps.html)

PROCTER & GAMBLE WON'T SPONSOR DR. LAURA'S PLANNED TV PROGRAM
Issue: Advertising/Broadcasting
Procter & Gamble has decided against sponsoring a planned TV talk show
hosted by Dr. Laura Schlessinger and will also stop advertising on Dr.
Schlessinger's syndicated radio show, saying she is too controversial. Dr.
Schlessinger has ignited uproar from gay and lesbian groups for her on-air
references to homosexuality as "deviant" and "a biological error." "There
has been controversy surrounding Dr. Laura on a number of topics," P&G said
in a written statement. "We've chosen not to be involved with a show that
will require time and resources to deal with this kind of controversy." The
hour-long TV show, produced and distributed by Paramount Television Group
has been sold to about 160 stations reaching more than 90% of U.S.
households.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal Interactive, AUTHOR: Staff Reporter]
(http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB958517524918631498.htm)

Issue: Intellectual Property
An amendment to the copyright law has pitted musicians against recording
companies over the question of who owns recordings: the companies that
finance and market them or the musicians who perform them. The amendment,
advocated for by recording companies, was inserted without debate into an
unrelated bill in Congress last November. The four-line amendment explicitly
adds sound recordings as a category of copyrighted materials that can be
considered "work made for hire" under the 1976 Federal Copyright Act.
"Work-for-Hire" is defined as a collective work commissioned by a studio or
publisher as the employer. Under the new amendment when a musician agrees to
work-for-hire status the recording company, not the artist, becomes the
author. Sheryl Crow said despite a contract labeling her recordings as works
for hire, she does not consider herself an employee commissioned by the
recording company. "As an artist," she said, "I author the material, I hire
my musicians, I book the studio time, I hire my engineer, I compose the
work, I hand it in."
[SOURCE: New York Times (B1), AUTHOR: Jon Pareles]
(http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/news/arts/copywright-music.html)

EUROPEAN UNION TO DEBATE COPYRIGHT LAWS
Issue: Intellectual Property
European Union governments Thursday will consider the draft Directive on
Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society. The law pits film
and music producers against consumers and consumer-electronics makers
because it seeks to extend copyright protection to digital media, even as it
creates national rules on what copying is allowed. As the law would affect
all EU member nations, its approach also sets those nations with tough
copyright protections, such as France and Spain, against those with less
restrictive policies.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, Author: BRANDON MITCHENER]
(http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB959205260441684831.htm)

Gary Handman
Director
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC

"Everything wants to become television" (James Ulmer -- Teletheory)