Communications headlines

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 09:58:34 -0800 (PST)

>
>TELEVISION
>
>UP NEXT: ADS NAUSEAM
>Issue: Television/Advertising
>Clutter on television, there is plenty of it. Ads, show promotions, station
>Ids and public service announcements all break up the programs on broadcast
>TV. In 1997 clutter totaled 15 minutes 11 seconds of each hour. The totals
>by the American Association of Advertising Agencies does not factor in
>clutter that the networks are now slipping right into the shows. A couple of
>examples: (1) The in-show promo. NBC has already started putting the Olympic
>logo with its symbol in the bottom right corner of the screen. Do we need to
>know they have rights to the Olympics when no Olympics are scheduled for
>months? (2) The "This Ain't Art, It's Sports" in-show promo. CBS sports
>announcers accidentally sight smirky Craig Kilborn, the soon to be host of
>CBS's "Late Late Show," during 11 games of its 19-day NCAA basketball
>tournament coverage. [Lisa has plenty more examples!]
>[SOURCE: Washington Post (C1), AUTHOR: Lisa de Moraes]
>(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-03/29/151l-032999-idx.html)
>
>PHILLIPS, TIVO TO BEGIN SALES OF DIGITAL VCRS
>Issue: Technology
>Digital video cassette machines are coming and bringing improved sight and
>sound. Phillips Electronics will sell two versions of the digital recorders
>for consumers made by Tivo. One can record 14 hours of video for $499; the
>other will have 30 hours of storage for $999. For now they will be sold via
>an 800 number with retail store sales planned by summer. On Wednesday Tivo
>will begin their personal television service allowing customers who pay for
>a $9.95 per month subscription to record TV shows.
>SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: WSJ Staff Reporter)
>(http://wsj.com)
>
>
BROADCASTING & SATELLITE TV

SAT TV REFORM ON HORIZON
Issue: Satellite TV
Two House committees last week unanimously passed separate bills to allow
satellite TV companies to offer local broadcast signals along with their
standard mix of cable and pay-per-view programming. A goal of industry
lobbyists and key lawmakers is to consolidate those two bills and Senate
measures and pass them into law this spring. Lawmakers have agreed to
postpone local must-carry obligations for satellite TV until January 1,
2002. The dissemination of distant broadcast signals is still a sticking
point and the House Judiciary and the House Commerce bills differ on their
solutions. The House Commerce Committee view pushed by Telecommunications
Subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) is that banning distant signals is
anti-competitive because it limits consumer choice. The Commerce bill would
require retransmission consent for any distant signals which satellite TV
companies fear could lead to payment of additional fees to the stations.
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 10), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak]
(http://www.broadcastingcable.com/)

DOES BAN ON PUBLIC TV ADVERTISING APPLY ANCILLARY DIGITAL SPECTRUM?
Issue: DTV
America's Public Television Stations (APTS) and the Media Access Project
(MAP) continue to debate over appropriate use of public's TV's supplementary
digital spectrum. Earlier this month, on behalf of several public interest
groups, MAP filed reply comments urging the FCC to ban any advertisements on
public TV airwaves. According to MAP, Section 399B of the Communications Act
clearly prohibits advertisements on public television. APTS lawyers,
however, feel that Section 399B does not apply to digital spectrum. "The
whole intent of 399B was that [Congress] was afraid that advertising would
interfere with public's television primary communication services, " said
Marilyn Mahrman-Gillia, VP of APTS. "But ancillary and supplementary
services by definition don't apply to primary communications," she
concludes. Just because technology can mask the leasing of public airwaves
to commercial interests, however, doesn't make it right, notes MAP president
Andrew Shwartzman
[SOURCE: Current (p.5), AUTHOR: Geneva Collins]
(http://www.current.org)

CABLE CONTROLS TO END
Issue: Cable
[Healey's lead is worth repeating] "Federal price controls on cable TV will
expire on April Fool's Day, a fitting time to end what some consumer
advocates consider a long-running joke." Cable rates have risen steadily
despite the price controls. Consumers now have two main hopes: that
alternatives to their local cable company will emerge or that cable
operators will find ways to increase their revenue besides jacking up
prices. Congress is set to allow satellite TV providers to include local
channels that should provide further competition to cable. And cable
companies are moving into new services that can provide new revenue streams.
But cable companies are paying more for programming and can pass those costs
to consumers. Also, they will be able to move some programming out of the
"expanded basic" tier into other premium packages.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: John Healey]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/indepth/docs/cable033199.htm)

NARROW CASTING
Issue: Cable
In "on Television" column, Johnson looks at some of the cable channels that
are in development. We'll take the Will Rogers approach...the CEO Channel
will target "the world's corporate leaders." The Baby Channel (suggested
motto: New Parents' Headquarters for Still More Conflicting Advice, Johnson
writes). Chop TV tries to go hand-to-hand with The Martial Arts Action
Network. GETv Program Network -- no, it's not about your appliances, it's
"gaming entertainment industry." The Recovery Channel will provide
"information, interaction and support" in the homes of those with
"addictions and other behavioral health problems." The Love Network will
offer fare on "positive relationships, self-esteem and self-improvement."
The Enrichment Channel plans "offerings in self-help, personal growth,
practical spirituality, motivation and healing." Others in the works include
The Football Network, Anthropology Programming and Entertainment, the
Anti-Aging Network, Senior Citizens Television Network, American Legal
Network, Conservative Television Network, the Local News Network (with half
hour newscasts from around the country), the Premier Horse Network, and the
Puppy Channel -- "Television programming consists of video of 'puppies being
puppies,' accompanied by relaxing instrumental music, no talk, virtually no
people. A 'quiet time' alternative for families."
[SOURCE: Chicago Tribune (Sec 5, p.3), AUTHOR: Steve Johnson]
(http://chicagotribune.com/textversion/article/0,1492,SAV-9903310367,00.html)

CABLE/TELEVISION

PUBLIC ACCESS FANS BATTLE NETWORK
Issue: Cable
In the Baltimore/Washington (DC) area, the Freedom Forum and local PBS
station WETA are trying to launch a new public affairs cable channel. But
since cable channel space is so tight, they are going to cable operators and
asking to "borrow" access channels for 6-18 months. The Alliance for
Community Media, a nonprofit organization that represents public,
educational and government community-access channels, aims to block such
moves. "It's appalling," says ACM's executive director, Bunnie Riedel, of
the Forum Network's strategy of trying to gain control of access channels
now occupied by local community producers as varied as individual musicians,
victims of domestic abuse, school districts and city governments. "The
Freedom Forum is supposed to promote free speech, not try to bury it by
grabbing the people's media," she says. "I understand their desperation.
They have millions of dollars invested in this venture. But they need to
understand that access-channel capacity is for community use." We're not
trying to take anything from anybody," Ed Turner, one of the founding
executives of CNN, said recently. "We want to be partners with the local
producers. The premise of this network is that over the decade, the quality
of journalism on television has diminished to the point where there is very
little for those of us who care about public issues and public policy at the
local, regional and national level." Around the country, access channels are
being folded into public television and PBS President Ervin Duggan says he
thinks access channels would be put to better use if partnered with public
broadcasting. But, at least as the WETA/Freedom Forum deal is concerned,
representatives of local access channels are not convinced: "This proposed
network may have some value, but it's not access. Access is targeted, local
programming created by and for the community. If we give up access channels
to let anything else appear on them, we are giving up on our mission and
reason for being."
[SOURCE: Baltimore Sun, AUTHOR: David Zurawik]
(http://www.baltimoresun.com) 3/27/99
[Thanks to Bunnie Riedel for sending this story our way]

MORE DEALS TO COME
Issue: Mergers
More mergers are to be expected among cable operators, analysts say. As radio
stations have recently consolidated to attempt to dominate cities, so cable
operators are trying to maximize efficiency by dominating by region. As big
players get bigger, markets that have multiple owners, like Los Angeles, New
York, Dallas and Boston, are attractive grounds for industry buyers. "There's
definitely a land rush going on, to gain critical mass in local markets," says
John Waller of Waller Capital, an investment banking specialist. Also, unlike
radio, "the increasingly global nature of telecommunications" is an
opportunity
for investors, while a challenge for policy makers, says Marc Gabelli of
Gabelli Asset Management. The history of cable companies' expansion is a rapid
one. Cable companies are now focusing on local ownership, where they used to
take whatever they would be granted by local politicians. Five years ago,
serving 40-50% of cable homes was impressive. Now San Francisco, Chicago and
Houston are served by cable operators that own 80% of the market. Fragmented
markets, such as Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, and St.
Louis, offer a picture of the companies likely to be involved in mergers. In
Los Angeles, Comcast controls 29% of the market, Adelphia has 24% and Charter
(pending acquisition) will have 19.6%. Brian Deevy, president of Daniels &
Associates, the nations largest cable investment banking firm, says, "In the
last three weeks, AT&T closed on TCI, Adelphia bought Century, and Comcast
bought MediaOne. I think it's fair to call that a peak, but I also think
consolidation continues. There are still a number of deals to be done."
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 4), AUTHOR: Price Colman and John M. Higgins]
<http://www.broadcastingcable.com/>

SBS BROADCASTING TO ACQUIRE CENTRAL EUROPEAN MEDIA
Issue: International
SBS Broadcasting has agreed to buy Central European Media Enterprises which
will create Europe's largest broadcasting companies -- holding 18 television
stations and 12 radio stations. Harry Evan Sloan, CEO of SBS, says the new
company will be one of the biggest buyers of international programming and
have
increased leverage in negotiating with Hollywood. While SBS has
concentrated in
Western Europe and Scandinavia, Central European has attempted to build a base
in Eastern Europe and has struggled with currency fluctuation and the
uncharted
territory of privatized TV in the region.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B10), AUTHOR: Kyle Pope]
(http://wsj.com/)

TELEVISION

SPEECH: TELEVISION IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Issue: Digital TV
Chairman Kennard's Remarks before the Variety/Schroders Media Conference in
New York (NY) [Summary]: Forty years ago in the famous "wasteland" speech,
the FCC Chairman Newt Minow called the time the Television Age -- and now
FCC Chairman Kennard agrees. He calls this the Digital Age noting that just
about every home appliance is now digital -- except the television. But this
is changing with the arrival of digital TV. But the old winning formula of
TV -- bringing visual entertainment to a passive audience -- must now change
to. Recent focus groups suggest that the killer app for digital TV will be
interactive data. "With digital, [television] will become an interactive
experience. It will be an avenue of endless exploration. Programming will
not just be
judged by its length, but by its depth -- by how many layers of additional
information and entertainment lie beneath it....Think about it. Everyone has
a television. So when that medium becomes digital and TV can be an on-ramp
to the Information Superhighway, it will serve as a foot-bridge -- for
millions of Americans -- across the digital divide." Two problem must still
be solved: 1) programmers must create compelling content to create a desire
for digital TV and 2) compatibility and interoperability. To #1 Chairman
Kennard says, "We need the courage to embrace the future. We need to
experiment with our business plans. And we need to seize the opportunity of
digital TV. And we at the FCC will give you the flexibility to do that." To
the second problem, Kennard challenges industry players to come to the
bargaining table in good faith. "My job as chairman of the FCC is to make
sure that consumers benefit from the digital age. I want all Americans --
and I mean all Americans -- to be able to use these amazing new technologies
to better educate their children, to be able to communicate with people
around the world, and to be able to learn the skills needed to survive and
thrive in the New Economy." The FCC would rather facilitate than regulate to
solve the questions facing digital TV. The Chairman quotes Edward R.
Murrow to summarize the challenge: "This instrument can teach, it can
illuminate, and yes it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that
humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is nothing but
wires and lights in a box."
[SOURCE: FCC]
(http://www.fcc.gov/Speeches/Kennard/spwek913.html)

PULLING PLUG ON PUBLIC ACCESS TV?
Issue: Cable
Los Angeles is preparing to renegotiate the city's franchise agreements with
cable operators for the first time since 1984 and are considering dropping
requirements for public access programming. PCs, the Internet and other new
technologies offer free speech opportunities that were not available in '84
and a city-wide public access channel's public access programming has been
dropped after receiving criticism for being too risque. "We went all
educational--we had to save the channel. And that's the truth," said Dyke
Redmond, director of the Los Angeles Cable Television Access Corp. "The
environment is shifting," said Perry Parks, a vice president of cable
company Media One. "Public access has become a challenge." Parks thinks the
Internet will replace cable public access. Federal law doesn't require that
cable companies offer public access channels, Ed Perez, an assistant city
attorney who works with the Information Technology Agency, said Wednesday.
"It's never been mandatory. It's something that can be negotiated."
[SOURCE: Los Angeles Times (3/25), AUTHOR: Bob Pool]
(http://www.latimes.com/HOME/NEWS/METRO/t000026763.html)
[Thanks to reader Jamie Kravitz for sending this story our way]

MCCAIN WANTS TO REVAMP FCC
Issue: FCC
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday he will offer legislation to "refocus"
the Federal Communications Commission. The senator, who is chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee that has oversight of the FCC, did not offer
details, but he did say that he would hold a hearing on April 14 and offer
his solutions at that time. Sen. McCain and some other lawmakers have
accused the FCC of being too regulatory. He and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA),
who chairs the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel, want to
limit the FCC's ability to review mergers involving telecommunications
companies. Yesterday he criticized the FCC for not removing regulations so
the nation's Bell companies can offer high speed Internet and data services
across local calling boundaries, which technically constitutes a
long-distance service.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Associated Press]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/breaking/merc/docs/027037.htm)

MCCAIN WANTS TO REVAMP FCC
Issue: FCC
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday he will offer legislation to "refocus"
the Federal Communications Commission. The senator, who is chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee that has oversight of the FCC, did not offer
details, but he did say that he would hold a hearing on April 14 and offer
his solutions at that time. Sen. McCain and some other lawmakers have
accused the FCC of being too regulatory. He and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA),
who chairs the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel, want to
limit the FCC's ability to review mergers involving telecommunications
companies. Yesterday he criticized the FCC for not removing regulations so
the nation's Bell companies can offer high speed Internet and data services
across local calling boundaries, which technically constitutes a
long-distance service.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Associated Press]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/breaking/merc/docs/027037.htm)

MCCAIN WANTS TO REVAMP FCC
Issue: FCC
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday he will offer legislation to "refocus"
the Federal Communications Commission. The senator, who is chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee that has oversight of the FCC, did not offer
details, but he did say that he would hold a hearing on April 14 and offer
his solutions at that time. Sen. McCain and some other lawmakers have
accused the FCC of being too regulatory. He and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA),
who chairs the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel, want to
limit the FCC's ability to review mergers involving telecommunications
companies. Yesterday he criticized the FCC for not removing regulations so
the nation's Bell companies can offer high speed Internet and data services
across local calling boundaries, which technically constitutes a
long-distance service.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Associated Press]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/breaking/merc/docs/027037.htm)

MCCAIN WANTS TO REVAMP FCC
Issue: FCC
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday he will offer legislation to "refocus"
the Federal Communications Commission. The senator, who is chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee that has oversight of the FCC, did not offer
details, but he did say that he would hold a hearing on April 14 and offer
his solutions at that time. Sen. McCain and some other lawmakers have
accused the FCC of being too regulatory. He and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA),
who chairs the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel, want to
limit the FCC's ability to review mergers involving telecommunications
companies. Yesterday he criticized the FCC for not removing regulations so
the nation's Bell companies can offer high speed Internet and data services
across local calling boundaries, which technically constitutes a
long-distance service.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Associated Press]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/breaking/merc/docs/027037.htm)

MCCAIN WANTS TO REVAMP FCC
Issue: FCC
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday he will offer legislation to "refocus"
the Federal Communications Commission. The senator, who is chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee that has oversight of the FCC, did not offer
details, but he did say that he would hold a hearing on April 14 and offer
his solutions at that time. Sen. McCain and some other lawmakers have
accused the FCC of being too regulatory. He and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA),
who chairs the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel, want to
limit the FCC's ability to review mergers involving telecommunications
companies. Yesterday he criticized the FCC for not removing regulations so
the nation's Bell companies can offer high speed Internet and data services
across local calling boundaries, which technically constitutes a
long-distance service.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Associated Press]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/breaking/merc/docs/027037.htm)

MCCAIN WANTS TO REVAMP FCC
Issue: FCC
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday he will offer legislation to "refocus"
the Federal Communications Commission. The senator, who is chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee that has oversight of the FCC, did not offer
details, but he did say that he would hold a hearing on April 14 and offer
his solutions at that time. Sen. McCain and some other lawmakers have
accused the FCC of being too regulatory. He and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA),
who chairs the House Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel, want to
limit the FCC's ability to review mergers involving telecommunications
companies. Yesterday he criticized the FCC for not removing regulations so
the nation's Bell companies can offer high speed Internet and data services
across local calling boundaries, which technically constitutes a
long-distance service.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Associated Press]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/breaking/merc/docs/027037.htm)

MSNBC TO STREAM LOCAL NEWSCASTS
Issue: Cable
As many as 15 NBC affiliates will have streaming live evening newscasts
available next month at the MSNBC site. The initiative is intended to beef
up MSNBC's local news programming links, since that aspect of its online
coverage is one of its biggest draws, according to General Manager John
Nicol. Although most of the original affiliates will be NBC owned and
operated stations, MSNBC.com expects to expand the service to other NBC
affiliates. The service is likely to be placed in the expanded video portal
area of MSNBC. <http:// http://www.msnbc.com/news/default.asp>
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p.45), AUTHOR: Richard Tedesco]
(http://www.broadcastingcable.com/)

ICY AFTER THE SUNSET
Issue: Cable
The end of March will bring an end to federal cable rate regulation (except
for cable's most basic service) imposed by the 1992 Cable Act. Observers
expect competition and continued oversight by Congress will help
avoid large rate increases, at least in the near term. For now, cable
operators say to increase income they will depend on new revenue streams by
launching new products, including high-speed Internet and telephone service.
Cable rates have been creeping up. Critics arguing to keep or reimpose
rate regulation point to the cumulative effect of rate increases over time
which have far exceeded the annual inflation rate. Last year the increase was
about 9% nationally. In 1999 the National Cable Television Association
expects rates to rise about 5%. Competition to cable's traditional services
is growing. Satellite (DBS) service has grown to 10 million subscribers.
Ameritech is pursuing the subscription video market. GTE and BellSouth are
hoping terrestrial wireless technology can be a competitor.
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p.38), AUTHOR: Price Colman & John M. Higgins]
(http://www.broadcastingcable.com/)

READY TO ROLL
Issue: Cable TV
Over the past three years, the nation's cable-TV operators have invested
more than $20 billion to upgrade their coaxial cable-TV lines to digital,
installing miles of fiber-optic cables and fancy new electronics capable of
handling a plethora of new digital fare. The National Cable Television
Association estimates that about 86% of America's cable systems will be
digital-capable by the end of the year. Comcast is offering digital cable as
a separate programming package for about $10/month and is getting what
company officials consider a very strong response. For the extra $10, most
customers get 150 channels or more that include dozens of movie and
pay-per-view choices, an array of music channels and digitized versions of
their favorite networks. The digital cable requires new set top boxes in the
home, but they typically cost about $3/month to lease, roughly the same as
their analog cousins. The new boxes and digital compression technology give
consumers more choice. The average cable-TV company today offers 63
channels; most digital systems offer close to 200. On-screen TV guides help
customers navigate their choices, let viewers make payments for pay-per-view
events, set "pop-up" electronic reminders of coming programs, let parents
lock out channels they don't want their children to watch, and allow cable
companies to send message to consumers about upcoming programs. Later this
year Diva Systems Corp. plans to expand its capability for true
video-on-demand. Ask for a movie and it starts. While cable companies appear
generally supportive of HDTV, few are willing to say when they expect to
begin carrying it on dedicated channels, in part because there is a dearth
of HDTV programming available. Cable companies hope their transition to
digital and expansion of program offerings will allow them to compete with
direct-broadcast-satellite (DBS) companies. DBS
companies counter that buying satellite TV these days is just as easy as
buying regular cable and their current "local TV" problem should be solved
in the near future.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (R10 on 3/22), AUTHOR: Leslie Cauley]
(http://wsj.com/)

Gary Handman
Director
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC

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