Communications-related Headlines for 3/16/99

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:10:40 -0800 (PST)

>
>PUBLIC BROADCASTING
>
>PROSPECTS SOBERING ON HILL, IN MEDIA WORLD
>Issue: Budget Issues/Digital TV/Competition
>"I can't imagine any scenario in which you'll get the kind of money you're
>talking about by 2003, even with an authorization," Lisa Sutherland,
>legislative director for the Senate Appropriations Committee said. That
>message -- called "suicidally sobering" by one public station leader -- was
>delivered by several key contributors at the annual meeting of America's
>Public Television Stations. Public stations are gearing up for their digital
>transition and want Congress to authorize and appropriate $770 million for
>that massive change. Current caps on federal spending, disputes over how to
>use budget surpluses, previous Congressional committee positions on funding
>digital for public broadcasting, and Congress' present disinterest in
>passing major legislation appear to doom the effort. A second harsh message
>delivered at the meeting was that public TV is "increasingly vulnerable" to
>competition from cable. Multi-tiered, deep-pocketed cable competitors will
>be much better positioned to extend their services and strengthen their
>brands in the digital environment.
>[SOURCE: Current (p.1), AUTHOR: Karen Everhart Bedford]
><http://www.current.org/>
>
>LOCAL DOCS SATISFY YEARNING: TO KNOW WHERE WE CAME FROM
>Issue: Content
>PBS stations have discovered locally-produced documentaries that look at
>neighborhoods or ethnic groups can be useful pledge vehicles to raise
>interest and draw in dollars. Softer documentaries of the '80s have given
>way to harder-edged documentaries, more historically heavy ethnic pieces.
>For WGTE in Toledo, Ohio the result has been "Cornerstones," an occasional
>series that has, to date, covered the history of the Irish, German, Polish
>and African-American communities in Toledo. Three more are planned. Bill
>Fredette of WGTE said, "Fiscally, it's been a very wise move, but that
>wasn't our original intent." San Francisco's KQED made the same discovery
>when it launched its "Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco"
>series in 1994. The "Searching for San Diego" series of KPBS profiled San
>Diego's Little Italy and San Ysidro. Three documentaries done by Milwaukee's
>WMVS (which did not air in pledge periods) discuss the past but concentrate
>on what the neighborhoods are like today. Some stations, such as Georgia
>Public Broadcasting and Kentucky ETV, are able to make money from video
>sales. They peddle an extensive collection of videotapes on local history
>and landmarks. National or local, nostalgic or not, these documentaries are
>helping Americans feel connected, Peter Stein of KQED thinks.
>[SOURCE: Current (p.1), AUTHOR: Geneva Collins]
><http://www.current.org/hi/hi904.html>
>
>NETWORK GROWING INTO 'CREATIVE IMPRESARIO' ROLE IN PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT
>Issue: Policy Makers
>Two editors of Current talked to Ervin Duggan about his first five years as
>PBS President and plans for year six. A few excerpts: Q: Is there a creative
>role that has been missing from PBS...? A: With the creation of the Chief
>Program Executive Model, a more active role for PBS in programming -- having
>ideas and bringing them forward -- was implied. But that does not happen
>overnight. If you look at the role of Alice Cahn in children's programming
>or Ellen Hume in the Democracy Project, you will see emerging a kind of
>creative impresario's role that I think will increasingly be expected by our
>member stations. Q: Could the Forum Network -- from the Freedom Forum and
>WETA -- end up as one of the DTV multicasting channels offered through PBS?
>A: There is every possibility that that could happen. When you look at the
>history of public television, in programming, good ideas have always bubbled
>up from the local level to the national, and there's no reason that couldn't
>happen on the distribution side as well. Q: Another way public TV may be
>able to generate revenues is through what the FCC calls "ancillary and
>supplementary" uses of DTV. APTS filed comments with the commission on that
>matter, but PBS reportedly decided not to file separate comments. Could you
>say what your personal concerns are? A: We described our concerns in a memo
>to general managers and assured them that we would rely on APTS to be the
>advocate before the FCC. I'm not going to go there now, because it would
>appear to involve me in a debate that I'm not involved in.
>[SOURCE: Current (p.10), AUTHOR: Steve Behrens & Karen Everhard Bedford]
><http://www.current.org/>
>
>
>TELEVISION CONTENT
>
>REALITY TV GOES FEMININE WITH HUGS INSTEAD OF THUGS
>Issue: Television
>According to audience research, there's something appealing for both men and
>women in the newest addition to the reality TV/ "video verite" genre of
>television. "Blind Date" will make its debut in syndication this fall.
Hopeful
>participants will wire themselves with a concealed mike and set out to find
>romance. Psychologists and comedians will offer commentary on the
experience as
>it is happening, via balloon graphics that will pop up on the screen. The
show
>is said to appeal to men and women, but for different reasons: "Men guffaw at
>the comic," says PolyGram Television President Bob Sanitsky, "while
inevitably,
>women tell us they love watching the dates." This is part of a trend that
>commentators are connecting to "Cops" that began in 1988. Once only car
crashes
>and hold ups, now The Learning Channel's "lifestyle documentaries" feature
the
>"realities" of people's weddings and childbirth stories. Without having to
pay
>actors and write scripts, this kind of television is also cheaper than
>traditional sitcoms says Gingold of the Leaning Channel. Gingold explains
that
>the stories are accentuated in order to build sympathy for the characters.
>Participants are asked to reveal the history of their relationship in detail.
>While this show is attempting to appeal to both genders, most advertisers are
>still holding to gender stereotypes: "Brewers and off-road vehicle
>manufacturers want their spots to reach male buyers, while the Learning
Channel
>afternoon block is thick with commercials for honeymoon cruises,
>yeast-infection medications and Gerber's baby products."
>[SOURCE: Washington Post (A1), AUTHOR: Paula Span]
><http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-03/16/150l-031699-idx.html>

ENTERTAINING AND RESPONSIBLE TV
Issue: Children's Television/Diversity
Chairman Kennard's 3/16/99 Remarks at the"Through the Eyes of Children"
Conference in North Hollywood (CA): There are still nights that you can go
hours without seeing on TV the diversity that you see on your street.
Television is the most powerful medium we have to tell our kids what they
are worth and what they can be. Over two-thirds of children surveyed in a
report by Children Now said that it mattered who was on television shows and
how they were portrayed. As one African-American boy said, "People are
inspired by what they see on television. If they do not see themselves on
TV, they want to be someone else." They want to be someone else. All of us
here want kids to have programming that make them feel good about who they
are - and what they can be. We all want that.
[SOURCE: FCC]
<http://www.fcc.gov/Speeches/Kennard/spwek911.html>

PUBLIC BROADCASTING

PROSPECTS SOBERING ON HILL, IN MEDIA WORLD
Issue: Budget Issues/Digital TV/Competition
"I can't imagine any scenario in which you'll get the kind of money you're
talking about by 2003, even with an authorization," Lisa Sutherland,
legislative director for the Senate Appropriations Committee said. That
message -- called "suicidally sobering" by one public station leader -- was
delivered by several key contributors at the annual meeting of America's
Public Television Stations. Public stations are gearing up for their digital
transition and want Congress to authorize and appropriate $770 million for
that massive change. Current caps on federal spending, disputes over how to
use budget surpluses, previous Congressional committee positions on funding
digital for public broadcasting, and Congress' present disinterest in
passing major legislation appear to doom the effort. A second harsh message
delivered at the meeting was that public TV is "increasingly vulnerable" to
competition from cable. Multi-tiered, deep-pocketed cable competitors will
be much better positioned to extend their services and strengthen their
brands in the digital environment.
[SOURCE: Current (p.1), AUTHOR: Karen Everhart Bedford]
<http://www.current.org/>

PUBLIC BROADCASTING

PROSPECTS SOBERING ON HILL, IN MEDIA WORLD
Issue: Budget Issues/Digital TV/Competition
"I can't imagine any scenario in which you'll get the kind of money you're
talking about by 2003, even with an authorization," Lisa Sutherland,
legislative director for the Senate Appropriations Committee said. That
message -- called "suicidally sobering" by one public station leader -- was
delivered by several key contributors at the annual meeting of America's
Public Television Stations. Public stations are gearing up for their digital
transition and want Congress to authorize and appropriate $770 million for
that massive change. Current caps on federal spending, disputes over how to
use budget surpluses, previous Congressional committee positions on funding
digital for public broadcasting, and Congress' present disinterest in
passing major legislation appear to doom the effort. A second harsh message
delivered at the meeting was that public TV is "increasingly vulnerable" to
competition from cable. Multi-tiered, deep-pocketed cable competitors will
be much better positioned to extend their services and strengthen their
brands in the digital environment.
[SOURCE: Current (p.1), AUTHOR: Karen Everhart Bedford]
<http://www.current.org/>