Communications-related Headlines

Gary Handman (
Tue, 25 Jul 2000 08:25:57 -0700 (PDT)

>Issue: Disabilities
>The FCC has voted to require broadcasters affiliated with the four major
>networks in the top 25 television markets to offer video-description
>services of television shows by April 2002. The vote has come 19 years after
>technology to deliver the service was created. Broadcasters are unhappy and
>say the process will cause
>technical problems. The services will provide spoken descriptions of
>scenery, costumes or key actions during television shows. Under the new
>rules, video description would be provided for about four hours a week
>during prime time or children's programming. To receive video descriptions,
>a television has to be tuned to its secondary-audio-programming channel.
>Most stereo TVs are already equipped to receive the SAP channel. The
>National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable Television
>Association opposes the measure, citing technical difficulties and a lack of
>FCC authority. The NAB pointed out in an FCC filing that the plan would
>require expensive engineering upgrades of "soon-to-be-obsolete" analog
>systems that are being phased out and replaced with digital technology. [For
>more, see]
>[Wall Street Journal (B12), AUTHOR: Jill Carroll]
>Issue: DTV
>Tuesday, July 25, 2000 10:00 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building
>Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection
>oversight hearing on High Definition Television (HDTV) and related matters.
>Witnesses will be by invitation only.
>[SOURCE: House of Representatives]
> nline.html)
>Issue: Arts
>The Center for Arts and Culture announces a major initiative: Art, Culture,
>and the National Agenda. This project -- a series of briefing papers, a
>final volume, and public programs -- highlights key policy challenges in
>arts and culture facing the next Presidential administration and Congress.
>Coverage of issues is broad, ranging from historic preservation to arts
>education, to intellectual property and cultural exchange. Release of
>individual briefing papers will begin in the fall of 2000. See
>( for more info.
>[SOURCE: Electronic Policy Network]
>Issue: Intellectual Property
>With concern about Napster and Gnutella running at a fever pitch, the
>ability to protect intellectual property appears to be evaporating, now that
>millions of users have access to technology that lets them swap songs,
>movies or anything else that can be stuffed into a computer file. Although
>Gnutella and Napster seem to have won the first rounds of battle over
>copyright, there's still plenty of intellectual property that hasn't been
>Napsterized -- not just popular fare like novels, but also high-value
>content like textbooks and market research. Using the same kinds of
>high-tech codes that protect your credit-card numbers from prying eyes on
>the Net, Internet companies are developing ways to lock up digital content
>so that only paying customers have the key to open a movie or song file,
>dubbed Digital Rights Management (DRM). The goal of DRM systems is to make
>digital content behave in a way that parallels a consumer's rights. When
>someone buys a song in digital form, it should behave in a way that makes it
>easy for the purchaser to listen to, and even lend to a friend, but highly
>impractical to duplicate on a large scale. To do that, DRM systems seal up
>content in a tamper-proof electronic box protected by mathematical codes
>that are practically impossible to break. Legitimate users get the
>appropriate cyber-keys. Those keys can be overt, like a password, or hidden
>away on your computer or associated with a particular Internet address. If
>DRM companies can get it right, their systems could open up new
>possibilities -- and new ways for authors, artists and publishers to make
>money. "You have so much flexibility here," says Ranjit Singh,president of
>ContentGuard, a Xerox spinoff that develops DRM technology. Consumers could
>buy a season-pass style subscription to all of a particular publisher's
>books, or buy only the songs they want from an album.
>[Wall Street Journal (B1), AUTHOR: Tom Weber]

Issue: DTV
While more than 100 stations are already broadcasting DTV signals
nationwide, not many viewers have enjoyed the future of TV. In addition to
expensive digital receivers, homeowners also often need rooftop antennas for
adequate reception. A House Commerce subcommittee is holding a hearing today
to get an update on issues related to the transition. Sinclair Broadcasting,
which has 50 stations, is calling for improvements to the current
transmission standard, 8-VSB, because of reception problems. Recently, the
major networks told the Federal Communications Commission that they favor
more testing, including that of an alternative standard, supported by
Sinclair, called COFDM. A recent survey of 200 DTV owners found that 96% are
satisfied with picture quality, especially that of high-definition TV
(HDTV), according to the National Consumers League.
[SOURCE: USAToday (3D), AUTHOR: Mike Snider]
See Also:
Live Webcast -- Tuesday, July 25, 2000 10:00 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House
Office Building
Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection
oversight hearing on High Definition Television (HDTV) and related matters.
Witnesses will be by invitation only.
[SOURCE: House of Representatives]

Issue: Cable/TV
In 1998, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that by July 1 of this
year, the cable industry must offer consumers a set-top box that would be
compatible with all different cable systems. This new breed of digital box
would come complete with features such as interactive games, Web surfing and
digital picture storage and would allow users to even bring it along when
they move. But no companies are making the new digital boxes and no
retailers are ordering them. And, citing high prices and squabbles over
revenue sharing and technology standards, they say retail sale is at least a
year away. "Customers are not knocking on the door saying we want these
boxes," says Rick Borinstein, senior vice president of Radio Shack [funny,
would you expect them to want something that does not exist yet?]. The main
problem is the economics of the set-top boxes, which could cost $300 to
$1,000 when they hit stores.
[SOURCE: USAToday (1B), AUTHOR: Edward Iwata]

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000

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