Telecommunications Headlines -- 3/15--

Gary Handman (
Wed, 18 Mar 1998 16:23:51 -0800 (PST)

Title: The Cleansing Power of Free TV
Source: New York Times (A30)
Author: NYT Editorial Staff
Issue: Campaign Finance Reform/Free Time for Candidates
Description: It is expected that the Senate Appropriations Committee will
approve legislation that would prevent the Federal Communications
from spending any money to develop or enforce new rules that would require
television stations to provide free air time for political candidates. The
measure would be added as a rider to a supplemental appropriations bill
"that includes funding for peacekeeping in Bosnia." "Like the
Congressional opponents pretend that this is purely a jurisdictional
and that a free-time rule would exceed the FCC's powers. Yet, as the
Congressional Research Service concluded last year, the agency has broad
authority to insure that broadcast licensees use the public airwaves to
serve the public interest. If the 1996 fund-raising scandals taught us
anything, it is that a system under which candidates mortgage themselves
wealthy interests in order to buy TV time does not serve the best
interests of the Republic. A free-time rule would not by itself break the
link between politics and big money, but it could weaken that link while
giving underfunded challengers a chance to be heard."

Title: Advertising: PBS' 'Arthur' Again Cavorts With Commerce
Source: New York Times (D6)
Author: Stuart Elliott
Issue: Television
Description: A recent promotion sponsored by Juicy Juice and TV Guide
concerns critics, "who are worried about the blurring of lines between
commercial and non-commercial enterprises -- particularly those aimed at
children." Their primary concern stems from the contest that the promotion
is centered around. The contest is open to children, ages 5-8, to suggest
ideas for an episode of "Arthur," a popular cartoon character whose series
of children's books has expanded into a hit PBS program. This aspect of
promotion brings to light a primary topic among critics: "the continuing
expansion of profit-making ventures into formerly non-profit realms." PBS
executives assert that public broadcasting "has been embracing elements of
commercialization because it must match the increasingly sophisticated
thrusts of its commercial competitors."

Title: The TV Column/Sounds Very Familiar
Source: Washington Post (C5)
Author: John Carmody
Issue: Television
Description: In a comprehensive study of health issues on television,
conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington-based Center
for Media and Public Affairs, they found that the five most common story
topics are crime (20 percent), weather (11 percent), accidents and
(9 percent), human interest and health stories (both 7 percent). Over a
three-month period, the report analyzed more than 17,000 local news
broadcasts. "During that time, the number of violent crime stories (2,035)
was almost double that of all health stories, three times the number of
foreign news reports and four times the number of education stories."

Title: Question Lingers as F.C.C. Prepares V-Chip Standards
Source: New York Times (D2)
Author: Lawrie Mifflin
Issue: V-chip
Description: The Federal Communications Commission will formally approve
television rating codes today and will issue standards for the
of the microchip, known as the V-chip, which will be placed inside new TV
sets so parents will have the ability to block programs containing sex,
violence or explicit language from their television screen.

Source: New York Times (E9)
Author: Peter H. Lewis
Issue: HDTV
Description: Engineers at WFAA-TV in Dallas have been encountering
difficulty in the testing of its high-definition, or HDTV, broadcasts. It
seems that whenever they begin testing, a nearby hospital reports
functioning difficulties in some of their heart monitors. Luckily, no one
has been harmed and hospital technicians have been able switch the heart
monitor's frequency to another spectrum. But there is still concern that
other stations and hospitals across the nation may encounter similar
problems. FCC officials were aware of this possible problem and alerted
hospitals across the nation last October that they should "avoid operating
on occupied broadcast channels" as HDTV broadcasts could interfere with
types of blood pressure, wireless heart and respiratory monitors. "But
medical, broadcast and regulatory officials conceded this week that the
warning had gone largely unheeded or unheard." The National Association of
Broadcasters sent a fax yesterday in reaction to the interference problems
in Dallas. The fax said in part that, "difficulties may arise in other
markets as stations begin to make the transition to digital
inception of digital television will increase the use of the TV spectrum
during the digital transmission, making it harder to find vacant channels
that can be used by low-power, unlicensed devices (such as heart monitors)
without interference." A spokesman for the FCC said, "Now that the problem
has been identified, we hope it won't occur again and blindside anybody."

Title: FCC Approves Rating System for TV; Sets With Blockers
Will Be on Market Within a Year
Source: New York Times (A16)
Author: Lawrie Mifflin
Issue: V-Chip
Description: Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission approved the
TV-ratings system developed last year by broadcasters, parent advocacy
groups and the Motion Picture Association of America. Television
manufacturers must now begin making TV sets that can block programs
according to the new rating system by installing blocking circuitry,
a v-chip. The v-chip will enable parents to block objectionable programs
from being viewed on their television set. All TV sets with a screen 13"
larger will be required to have v-chip capability by January 1, 2000.

Title: FCC Begins Inquiry Into Broadcast Ownership Rules
Source: FCC
Issue: Ownership
Description: "The FCC began a formal inquiry to review all of its
ownership rules as required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Section
202(h) of the 1996 Telecom Act requires the FCC to review the broadcast
ownership rules every two years to "determine whether any of such rules
necessary in the public interest as the result of competition," and to
repeal or modify any rules that are determined to no longer be in the
interest. The Notice of Inquiry adopted by the Commission today is its
step in carrying out this statutory mandate for the 1998 biennial review
its broadcast ownership rules. The Commission said that if in this review
determined that any of its broadcast ownership rules were no longer in the
public interest, it would subsequently commence an appropriate Notice(s)
Proposed Rule Making to modify or repeal the rule(s)."

Title: V-chips to debut on July 1, 1999
Source: Broadcasting&Cable (p.8)
Author: Chris McConnell
Issue: V-Chip
Description: Last week, the Federal Communications Commission adopted
technical standards and approved the television industry's new rating
system. Half of all TV sets will be equipped with the blocking technology
July 1999. All sets will be v-chip equipped by January 1, 2000. Only NBC
cable channel BET have resisted the rating system and the FCC may weigh
when licenses for NBC affiliates come up for renewal.

Source: New York Times (CyberTimes)
Author: Pamela Mendels
Issue: Education Technology
Description: According to a recent report, "School Technology; Five School
Districts' Experiences in Funding Technology Programs," once computers are
in place in a school, officials often lack the funding for other
necessities, such as teacher training, computer maintenance and the
replacement of equipment that is out-of-date. Susan J. Lawless, one of the
authors of the 77-page report, published by the General Accounting Office,
said: "Looking forward for the ongoing costs of technology -- staffing,
training, recurring costs of upgrading and replacing equipment -- the
districts have not been able to put together a stable funding source."
Moreover, Lawless said, schools are facing the problem of being
strapped and having to pay for more pressing needs. "Well, gee, do you
someone to fix the computers when they break down or do you hire more
teachers?" Lawless said, summarizing the dilemma that school officials
confront. "Naturally, the choice is to hire more teachers." The report
focused on a cross-section of ordinary school districts -- from urban
Seattle, Washington, to rural Roswell, New Mexico, to suburban Columbus,
Ohio -- and how they have attempted to wire their classrooms. "Hopefully
message of the report is some insight into the real-life issues
schools and school districts as they are incorporating technology into
curriculums," Lawless said.

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

"You are looking into the mind of home video. It is innocent, it is aimless,
it is determined, it is real" --Don DeLillo, Underworld