Fwd: Headlines Extra--Digital TV

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 12 Nov 1998 08:49:18 -0800 (PST)

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>Subject: Headlines Extra--Digital TV
>Comments: To: upforgrabs-l@cdinet.com
>Headlines Extra is a free online news service provided by the Benton
>Foundation <www.benton.org>. Much like our daily, Communications-related
>Headlines, Headlines Extra is intended to keep you up to date on important
>industry developments, policy issues, and other pertinent
>communications-related news events. This week's issue looks at the
>developments concerning the public interest obligations of digital
>television broadcasters based on the deliberations of a Presidential
>committee that will soon complete its work. We invite comment our new service
>as we develop it over the coming weeks. Please send comments to
>On November 9, the President's Advisory Committee on Public Interest
>Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters meet for the final time in
>Washington, DC. The Committee reviewed a draft of the recommendations it is
>expected to make to the Vice President next month. The draft report is
>available, in part, at <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/pubintadvcom/pubint.htm>.
>In the coming days, Committee members will submit comments on the draft
>based on Monday's discussion and a final draft will be crafted by the
>co-chairs. Members will have until November 23 to submit separate statements
>that will incorporated into the report.
>Recent media coverage has been critical of the proposed recommendations for
>not being bold enough in setting public interest guidelines for the arrival
>of digital broadcasting. Based on yesterday's deliberations and the draft
>report, the likely set of recommendations will include:
>* a declaration supported by the entire Committee that the transition to
>digital television (DTV) requires a clear commitment by broadcasters to
>serve their communities
>* the public interest standards that all DTV stations should meet include 1)
>disclosing public interest activities to the community, 2) ascertaining
>community needs and providing programming that meets those needs, 3) airing
>public service announcements throughout the broadcast day, and 4) providing
>public affairs programming with emphasis on local issues. Programming will
>have to make their programming accessible to the disabled community.
>Some stations may decide to use digital broadcast technology to provide
>multiple video streams (multicasting). The Committee will endorse the idea
>that providing additional channels necessitates additional public interest
>responsibilities. To give broadcasters flexibility, these additional
>responsibilities will take the form of either programming requirements (i.e.
>providing public interest programming on all channels or providing a
>non-commercial public interest channel), setting aside capacity (for new
>local programmers), or paying a fee to support other outlets of public
>interest programming and programmers.
>The Committee will make a major proposal on how digital television can serve
>educational needs. In a recommendation to Congress, the Committee will
>suggest that in each television market one digital broadcast license be
>reserved for cradle-to-the-grave educational programming. Current public
>broadcasters and other local entities will be able to apply to the Federal
>Communications Commission (FCC) to manage this capacity. The Committee will
>recommend a number of funding sources to support this capacity and the
>programming to fill it including: 1) spectrum auction revenues, 2) fees
>collected when broadcasters provide ancillary or supplemental services, 3)
>the fees paid by broadcasters to be relived from additional obligations when
>multiplexing, and 4) license transfer fees.
>Free air time for candidates has been a controversial issue for the
>Committee for the past year. Recognizing television's important role in the
>nation's political discourse, the Committee is offering two proposals:
>* that stations voluntarily offer 5 minutes of candidate-centered discourse
>every night for the 30 days proceeding a general election. Broadcasters
>would be given flexibility to choose the races and candidates they deem
>important to cover.
>* the Committee recommends that broadcasters challenge Congress to pass
>comprehensive campaign finance reform and offer some free time for
>candidates in exchange.
>In two recent developments, diversity and datacasting were also addressed on
>Monday. The Committee will endorse a statement urging broadcasters to
>redouble efforts to provide programming that serves all parts of their
>communities and to encourage diversity in both ownership and employees.
>Also, Rob Glaser of RealNetworks will soon offer a proposal on how the
>datacasting capabilities of digital broadcasters can be harnessed to serve
>the public interest. With Mr. Glaser's help, members Charles Benton and
>Peggy Charren will examine what the specific educational benefits of the
>service could be. Their recommendations will be incorporated into the final
>Although not discussed on Monday, the draft report also contains a
>recommendation that broadcasters (through their lobbying association, the
>National Association of Broadcasters) adopt a voluntary code of conduct.
>This voluntary self-regulation would be based on a statement of principles
>or standards drafted and implemented by the NAB without pressure,
>interference, or direct/indirect enforcement by the Government. In an
>appendix to th report, the Committee offers a draft Code based on earlier
>versions of the NAB's own former code.
>An additional recommendation also suggests a reserve of a small slice of
>spectrum for disaster warnings and information. The recommendation is based
>on suggestions from the federal governments's Working Group on Natural
>Disaster Information. The recommendation can be found in the draft report.
>The Benton Foundation will continue to provide updates on the Committee's
>work during the final weeks of its existence. We also plan to provide public
>information on how the final set of recommendations are implemented by
>Congress and the FCC. See our PIAC home page
><http://www.benton.org/Policy/TV/piac.html> for additional information. To
>send the Committee comments, send email to <piac@ntia.doc.gov>
>(c)Benton Foundation, 1998. Redistribution of this email publication -- both
>internally and externally -- is encouraged if it includes this message.
>The Benton Foundation works to realize the social benefits made possible
>by the public interest use of communications. Bridging the worlds of
>philanthropy, public policy, and community action, Benton seeks to shape
>the emerging communications environment and to demonstrate the value of
>communications for solving social problems. Through demonstration
>projects, media production and publishing, research, conferences, and
>grantmaking, Benton probes relationships between the public, corporate,
>and nonprofit sectors to address the critical questions for democracy in
>the information age. Other projects at Benton include:
>Kids Campaigns <http://www.kidscampaigns.org/>
>Open Studio: The Arts Online <http://www.openstudio.org/>
>Destination Democracy <http://www.destinationdemocracy.org/>
>Sound Partners for Community Health <http://www.soundpartners.org/>
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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