Fwd: Communications-related Headlines for 2/4/99

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 4 Feb 1999 12:40:39 -0800 (PST)

>Issue: V-Chip
>Television sets with v-chip technology are coming later this year, but if
>sales of v-chip decoder boxes in their first few months are any indication
>parents are not excited about the new control that the technology gives
>them. V-chips allow parents to zap unwanted programs based on sexual
>content, violence or objectionable language. With v-chip decoder boxes
>languishing on store shelves after a year of sales, Todd Grunberg, vice
>president of a Toronto company which has produced 60,000 v-chip decoder
>boxes, said "The interest was high, but it just never seemed to translate
>into sales." Supporters say it takes time for consumers to embrace new
>technology like the v-chip, and early sales figures are not indicative of
>public sentiment. TV manufacturers must equip half U.S.-sold TV sets with
>v-chips beginning this year. Half the new models must have v-chips by July
>1, and the remaining by July 1, 2000. Those who want the v-chip without
>buying a new television must buy a decoder box with the chip inside. Prices
>for boxes range from $60 to $99. "People really want this kind of tool,"
>said Kathryn Montgomery, president of the Center for Media Education in
>Washington. "They're very concerned about the problem of sex and violence on
>[SOURCE: Washington Post (Online), AUTHOR: Marta W. Aldrich (Associated
>Issue: Advertising/Regulation
>The American Family Association and Morality in the Media, two groups critical
>of violence and sex in the media, as well as several individual viewers filed
>complaints with the Federal Communications Commission about a WWF ad that ran
>during the Super Bowl. One of the scenes sited by the watchdog groups show a
>woman with her legs wrapped around as female wrestler Sable who says, "we
>use sex to enhance our image." Another scene shows executives smashing into
>glass as 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin says, "a nonviolent form of entertainment."
>WWF officials said most people who saw the ad, including Fox who aired it, saw
>nothing wrong with it. [Because they got the joke] Robert W. Peters, president
>of Morality in the Media says the main complaint comes from the commercial
>being run during such a heavily watched television event.
>[SOURCE: Washington Post (online), AUTHOR: Skip Wollenberg (AP)]
>Issue: Television
>You know, like when you're sitting around with a couple of buddies watching
>classic "Wiseguy" episodes and you say, "This is intense, dude." Or perhaps
>better explained by the News Release: The Commission has adopted an order
>addressing the way it measures and predicts the strength of television
>signals for the purposes of the Satellite Home Viewer Act ("SHVA"). Under
>the SHVA, television signal intensity is the key element in determining
>whether a consumer is "unserved" by network television broadcast stations
>and, thus, is eligible to receive network service using a home satellite
>dish. The revised rules are designed to better identify those consumers who
>can and cannot get their local broadcast television stations over the air.
>More information available at
><http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Cable/Orders/1999/fcc99014.wp> and from Donald
>Fowler, Jr. at (202) 418-7200. Also, see a joint statement from Chairman
>Kennard and Commissioner Ness
Issue: Television
In a long article by the authors of "Down the Tube: An Inside Account of the
Failure of American Television," the current landscape of television
ownership (see more below), profitability and regulation is examined. The
authors note "the failure of the industry to address public needs and
considerable wants as well." They blame a generation of managers committed
not to the product, but to the bottom line, the rush towards globalization,
merger and acquisition, and the popularity among investors of broadcasting
stock -- fueled by deregulation. The authors call for a national debate to
draw up a new television policy including the Government (the FCC and
Congress), the industry, the professional societies, academics, and the
public. The agenda should include: the future of public television, spectrum
assignments, the role of television in the political process, television and
education, and "a definition of the public interest for the 21st century."
[SOURCE: Television Quarterly (p.2), AUTHOR: William Baker (CEO of WNET,
public TV's flagship station in New York) and George Dessart (Brooklyn


Issue: Digital TV
[Editorial] "For a medium that seems to be standing still, there's a lot of
movement in HDTV." The first good news is the rate at which new digital
stations are going on air. At last count there were almost 50, covering a
remarkable 37.4% of US TV homes. "Less impressive is the number of digital
TV sets facing those signals. The total so far is 13,500." However, prices
for 34 to 38 inch digital television sets should be about $3,000 by
Christmas, falling more rapidly than originally expected. "One advertising
consultant at the NATPE convention last week said that agencies and
advertisers are concerned about broadcasters' lack of a business model and
programming. Broadcasters should be worried too."
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p.74 ), AUTHOR: B&C Editorial Staff]

Issue: Digital TV
Head of Pax TV, Bill Paxton, has confirmed a plan to implement digital
television service. Three services will be launched in the next 12-18 months,
including a shopping network and two "family oriented" channels, "with minimal
violence and no explicit sex," Paxson said. Pax TV is the first commercial
network broadcaster to announce a plan to take advantage of the FCC's
allocation of digital TV channels. PBS has already planned to launch several
digital services later this year. Networks are offered either a second channel
of high definition television or three to four channels of standard-definition
television. Electronic commerce segments will also be included in the PAX TV
[SOURCE: Broadcast & Cable (p. 13), AUTHOR: Steve Mclellan]


Issue: Children's TV
Fox TV is giving up its morning kids' shows, to be replaced by expanded, local
affiliate news programs. The decision was made in response to affiliate
complaints of low ratings and sales of daytime programs. Fox affiliate board
chairman Murray Green said that scrapping the kids' shows and expanding local
news will give stations more air time to plug daytime lineups. In return for
the morning airtime, Fox will recapture afternoon ad time. At an announcement
on Sunday, Fox officials emphasized their continuing commitment to kids'
programming, noting that 14 hours of Saturday morning and weekday afternoon
"kidvid" remain in tact, including the FCC mandated 3 hours of educational
programming. The programming shift will be effective Fall 1999. Fox
Television Chairman Chase Carey also announced that Fox supports
deregulation which means lifting the current 35% national ownership cap for
[SOURCE: Broadcast & Cable (p.26), AUTHOR: Steven McClellan]

Issue: Ownership
The Big Twelve of Television/Entertainment (ranked by 1996 revenue): Time
Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, Viacom, TCI, Sony, General Electric,
Gannett, General Motors, Comcast and Seagram. They own all of the commercial
broadcasting networks, at least 89 TV stations including the majority of the
stations in the Top Ten markets, 600 radio stations, 2 of 3 major news
magazines, virtually all 24-hr news channels, 92 daily newspapers (including
USAToday and the New York Post), all of the major motion picture studios,
virtually all of the producers of network entertainment, every cable channel
that attracts more than 1 million viewers per week, more than half the cable
TV subscribers, more than half the basic and pay channels on cable, 12 major
trade book publishing companies, more than 60 magazines and most of the
recorded music in the US. The are the major producers, but also the major
buyers of television programming. They also have significant international
holdings. I used to call him "my" dog, but I checked his papers and they own
Sparky, too (I knew he was too entertaining to be free).
[SOURCE: Television Quarterly (p.2), AUTHOR: William Baker (CEO of WNET,
public TV's flagship station in New York) and George Dessart (Brooklyn

Issue: Online Services
Lycos search engines are looking for MP3 files which makes some music
industry companies uneasy. Lycos announced Monday it is starting a new
search service that offers easy access to a half-million high quality
recordings. Web users simply will type in the name of an artist and Lycos
will find MP3 files for that artist on the Web. Music industry officials
are worried that many of the songs are online illegally. Lycos' product
manager for multimedia, Brian Kalinowski, said "Lycos as a company is
obviously very concerned about copyright protection. It's certainly not our
goal to support the unauthorized distribution of music." Lycos said "MP3"
are among the five most frequent search phrases asked for on two search
engine sites which they operate. In December, the recording industry
announced the Secure Digital Music Initiative with plans to try to stem the
flow of pirated music online. The new Lycos MP3 search engine is at
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury/Mercury Center, AUTHOR: Associated Press]

Issue: Computer Technology
The record industry is worried: It's too easy to give music away on the
Internet. In fact, thousands of songs now circulate freely in a technical
format known as MP3, an easy way to swap recordings, authorized and
unauthorized, as computer files online. The question now facing the music
business is how to sell recordings as profitable pieces of data. This month
a task force of recording companies, software programmers and consumer
electronics makers intends to begin work on a uniform, industry-wide standard
for digital distribution of music. European and Asian recording-industry
trade groups support the initiative. To avoid antitrust problems, any
standards adopted by the Secure Digital Music Initiative would be voluntary.
Faster modems or other high-speed Internet connections make downloads faster
and will speed interest in music via computer. Despite the urgency, some
participants predict the standard-making process could drag on past next
[SOURCE: New York Times (C1), AUTHOR: Jon Pareles]

Issue: Merger
America Online Inc. is acquiring Moviefone Inc., the country's largest movie
listing and ticketing service, for $388 million in stock. Moviefone has
listings for about 17,000 screens in 42 US cities. While much of its work
is done by its movie telephone lines in the various cities, it also does
business at its website <www.moviefone.com>. "We're looking for
applications in the offline world that we can bring to the online world,"
said Barry Schuler, president of AOL Interactive Services. AOL intends to
use Moviefone as a source of electronic commerce revenue and to promote AOL.
Taking over Moviefone's 100 million annual customers is a key move in AOL's
attempt to decrease its reliance on subscription fees.
[SOURCE: Washington Post (E1), AUTHOR: Shannon Henry]

Issue: Television
Any day now people will use their computers to watch television, buy
merchandize from their favorite shows and even send feedback to producers or
advertisers. That's the opinion offered to a ballroom full of television
executives by Mark Cuban, the co-founder and president of Broadcast.com Inc.
At the NATPE meeting in New Orleans, Internet entrepreneurs were clamoring to
be heard by this group OF 17,000 -- primarily non-network TV producers and
syndicators. Speaking about the Internet, Nick Trigony, NATPE's chairman
and the president of Cox Broadcasting, said, "It's still a big unknown, the
question of how do we make money with it." Cuban points out that corporate
offices have computers but often do not have television sets or radios; he
sees that as an untapped market to be exploited by television and radio
stations and by corporations wishing to stream speeches, seminars or
[SOURCE: New York Times (C8), AUTHOR: Lawrie Mifflin]
See also this story about a new magazine called TV Online:
[SOURCE: Washington Post (F10), AUTHOR: Sandra Evans ]

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