Headlines Extra -- Broadcasting 4/20/99

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 22 Apr 1999 16:25:53 -0700 (PDT)

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>Subject: Headlines Extra -- Broadcasting 4/20/99
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>Headlines Extra is a free online news service provided by the Benton
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>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 service is
>available online at (www.benton.org/News/).
>Headlines Extra -- Broadcasting 4/20/99
> Tuning In To Hard Truths (WSJ)
> Low Power TV Fights for Licenses (B&C)
> A Growth Spurt Is Transforming TV For Children (NYT)
> Must-See Interactive TV/ DTV Plans Of Their Own (B&C)
> FCC Yanks Trinity License (B&C)
> Big Flap Over Small Stations (B&C)
> Retrans Fees From The Sky? (B&C)
> In TV News, So Many Programs, So Few Bodies (NYT)
> The War on the Airwaves (WP)
> FCC On Faster Track For Mergers (B&C)
>Issue: Media strategies
>Broadcasters are starting to admit that the current model of broadcasting,
>based on selling advertising and targeting mass audiences, will not
survive as
>the already segmented TV audience becomes even more divided in the face of
>current trends. These trends include the proliferation of cable, TV's
>partnerships with the Internet, and the ability of digital TV to "quintuple"
>the number of channels available. A new model for programming was launched in
>1978 with the advent of cable. Instead of depending solely on sponsors, cable
>operators took in subscription money from viewers in order to attract a
>audience and still make a profit. Today there are more than 200 cable
>that are tracked by Neilson Media Research. The Yankee group, a consulting
>firm, predicts that in two years the combined viewers of ABC, CBS, NBC and
>will be less than the viewers of basic cable. "The game as it was played
>doesn't work," admits CBS Television President Leslie Moonves.
>Some of the ways broadcasters are responding to these trends include:
>* Consolidation of news gathering is being discussed. (CBS and ABC have
>discussed merging with Time Warner's CNN)
>* Possible consolidation of Networks. (CBS is lobbying the FCC to own a
>second network, with the assumption that CBS, ABC and NBC will eventually
>* Broadening of the advertising base beyond the network programming (ABC
>is putting soaps on cable, NBC is buying a home-shopping network, and CBS is
>co-sponsoring a rock music tour with Nascar.
>Other industry responses included the favoring of cheap reality-based TV
>like Fox's "World's Scariest Police Chases" and news magazines that provide
>drama at the lowest cost. The industry is cutting back on personnel
expenses as
>well. CBS Ad salesmen got rid of their salaries and are working on
>Agreements with affiliates have been strained, as networks have reduced
>payments to their local partners. Some local stations, such as NBC's Detroit
>affiliate, warned that if they can't cut a deal with NBC, they will bypass
>and create their own network.
>[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B1), AUTHOR: Kyle Pope]
>Issue: Low Power/TV
>Representatives from the low-power TV (LPTV) industry told a House panel
>that they will go out of business if they do not get permanent license
>assignments. Station owners claim that they cannot get loans because banks
>are unsure whether the stations will have assignments in future.
>Reps Charlie Norwood (R-GA), Nathan Deal (R-GA), and Ron Klink
>(D-PA) have sponsored legislation that would make low-power TV licenses
>permanent. "Low-power broadcasters today are inventors," said Rep. Klink.
>"They put up compelling programming with a local focus." While most
>full-power broadcasters support the idea of granting LPTVs permanent
>licenses, they are concerned about possible interference that they might
>cause during the transition to digital. William Kennard, Chairman of the
>FCC, strongly supports giving LPTV stations permanent status.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p.19), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak]
>Issue: Digital TV
>This week at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las
>Vegas, NBC is expected to announce that it will offer multi-media features to
>its Fall programming. "Using DTV channels and Intel's Intercast
technology, NBC
>will broadcast standard-definition programming enhanced by graphics, text and
>possibly low-resolution video." For TVs or computers that are specially
>equipped with Intel software, viewers will be able to use a mouse,
keyboard or
>remote control to interact with the programming. NBC and Intel are members of
>the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum, an alliance of companies such as,
>Microsoft, Sony, CNN, PBS, Discovery, Disney, Tribune and Warner Bros, that
>are developing specifications for delivering data along with television
>programming. Intel has worked with other broadcasters, such as PBS in
>delivering digital content. "Zooboomafoo" is a PBS children's nature show
>can be interacted with using Intel-equipped PCs. ABC is experimenting with
>producing a DTV broadcast of sporting events and is meeting with vendors
at the
>NAB convention. Fox is working with Tribune Broadcasting to develop a DTV
>system called "directed channel change." The system would be capable of
>delivering regional programming: "Consumers would program their ZIP codes
>their DTV receivers, which would then receive only SDTV channels intended for
>their areas." Andrew Setos, executive vice president of News Corp. says
that as
>newspapers offer regional editions, five or ten minutes of the news could be
>regionalized. CBS, which has already broadcast four football games and a few
>prime time shows in HDTV, is expected to announce its Fall HDTV programming
>on May 19.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 4), AUTHOR: Glen Dickson]
>Issue: Children's TV
>Children's TV has undergone a growth spurt in recent years. Two years ago,
>the federal government instituted rules requiring three hours a week of
>educational programming, but much of the recent explosion in kids' TV has
>been driven by the market and not by government regulations. Advertisers
>have realized that children are a diverse and important audience that has
>greater influence over family purchasing decisions than ever before. For the
>1998-99 season, advertisers spent over $1 billion to reach children with TV
>commercials. Producers, who must compete for ad dollars, are now more likely
>to design shows for specific age groups, instead of the one-size-fits-all
>shows of the past. There is also a greater offering of educational and
>pro-social kids' shows than ever before. "People make money doing good
>stuff," said Alice Cahn, president of Television, Film and Video for the
>Children's Television Workshop. "It's harder to get away with doing schlock
>television for kids now."
>[SOURCE: New York Times (A1), AUTHOR: Lawrie Mifflin]
>Issue: Regulation/Minorities
>Last week the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) revoked the Miami TV
>license of Trinity -- a religious broadcasting company -- an action that
>been taken in more than ten years. FCC Chairman Kennard, along with two other
>Democrats on the panel ruled that Trinity Broadcasting Network lied to the
>in the mid 80's. It created National Minority TV as a front to take advantage
>of higher ownership limits for minority-owned broadcasting companies. "We
>not permit the public interest to be undermined by those who refuse to comply
>with the letter and spirit of our rules and policies," wrote Commissioner
>Gloria Tristani. Although Trinity Broadcasting owns 12 full power and 300 low
>power stations, the FCC only took away one. Trinity Attorney, Howard Topel
>the network will appeal. The FCC also ruled that Glendale Broadcasting, a
>company that proposed to take over the Miami license was unqualified
because it
>hadn't made progress in building stations in other markets. The FCC's ruling
>pertains to Trinity's deceitful practices in the 80's, when a 1985 rule
>stations to own 12 stations nationwide and hold stake in two more if they
>minority owned. In 1995 the FCC ruled that Trinity had used a
>"minority-controlled company" to get around the ownership cap. In practice,
>Trinity controlled National Minority TV in nearly every aspect. Topel says
>Democrats were looking for a way to support "new minority policies" and that
>there were no standards in place that made clear what minority ownership
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 14), AUTHOR: Bill McConnell]
>Issue: Radio
>FCC Chairman William Kennard proposes microradio to expand broadcast
>opportunities for minorities, women, small businesses and communities. The
>proposal would create two or three low-power classes with potentially
>hundreds of stations, each with power up to 1 kilowatt on the FM band,
>squeezed in among existing signals. Opposition is coming from established
>broadcasters who call it a threat to their signals and their business.
>Support is coming from community activists, colleges, musicians and other
>would-be station operators. While the FCC chairman would like to ensure that
>minorities and the disenfranchised receive a large share of low-power
>licenses, structures are in the way that may prevent that. It is unclear
>whether the new service would allow commercial operations or whether it
>would be limited to nonprofit operations. That would impact on whether a
>bidding process or first-come, first-served were used (for commercial) or
>whether lottery or comparative hearing process were used (for non-profits).
>Also the FCC commissioners have promised not to create additional
>interference to existing full-power license holders in the FM band. The
>National Association of Broadcasters considers the interference issue to be
>uppermost among the "probably 20 arguments against going forward." Jeff
>Baumann, general counsel for the NAB, also notes that few large markets are
>expected to get low-power stations because the spectrum in big cities is
>already too crowded. Existing stations also complain about fairness, saying
>the microradio stations could be competitors who get into the business
>cheaply. The FCC has asked for technical studies to determine interference
>and has told the NAB that the only thing that could doom the plan is the
>interference issue. The NAB, Media Access Project and the Consumer
>Electronics Manufacturers Association are all racing to complete separate
>technical studies before June 1.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 26), AUTHOR: Bill McConnell]
>Issue: Satellite
>The big remaining issue in the House Commerce Committee satellite TV reform
>bill (H.R. 851) is a clause that would guarantee satellite carriers "fair
>and nondiscriminatory access" to cable networks and local broadcast signals.
>It also would forbid local broadcasters from cutting any exclusive deals
>with cable companies or rival satellite carriers. Broadcasters and cable
>networks both oppose the inclusion of that provision. Satellite carrier
>EchoStar says that it is required to make DBS providers truly competitive
>and the company will oppose the bill if the provision is removed. Rep Billy
>Tauzin (R-LA) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) from the House Telecommunications
>Subcommittee both support the measure while Michigan Rep. John Dingell, the
>ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee opposes it. Another
>squabble is over language in the Commerce Committee bill that would require
>the local broadcast station to pay whenever a consumer asks for a $150
>signal-strength test to see if he or she qualifies to receive distant
>network signals. Broadcasters want a "loser pays" arrangement. The House
>Commerce Committee bill could come to the floor for consideration this week.
>On the Senate side less controversial satellite TV bills from the Commerce
>and Judiciary Committees are to be merged on the Senate floor. The Senate
>vote is expected in May.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 10), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak]
>Issue: Journalism/TV
>As TV news operations face increasing competition form both cable and the
>Internet, the networks are scrambling to save money without affecting the
>quality or quantity of news. An emerging strategy involves re-purposing
>nightly news reporters and stories for prime-time and morning news magazine
>shows. As a result of new management philosophies and cost saving efforts
>traditional barriers between news programs are becoming less defined.
>Anchors like Dan Rather of the "CBS Evening News" have recently contributed
>Yugoslavia war stories to "CBS This Morning" and "48 Hours" in addition to
>evening news programs. Other networks are following a very similar
>path. "We're working toward a situation in which ABC News reports the news
>rather than individual programs reporting the news," said David Westin,
>president of ABC News. Not everyone is so optimistic about this trend. "If a
>major story develops, the networks will parachute in one of their mainstream
>correspondents from a bureau," who will do a professional but less exert job
>contends Larry Grossman, a former president of NBC.
>[SOURCE: New York Times (A12), AUTHOR: Lawrie Mifflin]
>Issue: Censorship/Politics
>Despite the strict censorship imposed because of NATO attacks, Belgrade
>residents still have considerable access to opinions beyond that of their
>own radio and television. Belgrade is an international city with 1.5 million
>citizens, more than 100,000 satellite dishes and an equivalent number of
>Internet connections -- a city that, in the words of one resident, has
>"always aspired to an American way of life." Since the NATO bombing started,
>Belgrade citizens are having a problem with the West, a problem
>understanding why the Western satellite TV stations keep talking about the
>plight of ethic Albanian refugees and atrocities by the Yugoslav military.
>The people say the news broadcasts are "propaganda, a fabrication." Whether
>it is CNN or British-owned Sky News, the people don't believe the news. They
>react similarly to reports on the Internet. In the US and much of Europe,
>the images of distraught refugees pouring out of Kosovo have galvanized
>public opinion against the Serb-led Yugoslav government and fed demands for
>decisive military action to end the humanitarian catastrophe. However,
>preoccupied by their own problems and the destruction wrought by the NATO
>bombing campaign, many Serbs seem indifferent to the suffering of the Kosovo
>Albanians. They point to a lack of similar outrage by the West over the
>flight of a quarter-million Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia in July
>1995. The Kosovo conflict has brought booming business to Internet providers
>in Belgrade. Internet cafes have plenty of takers at $2 an hour to surf the
>Internet. So far NATO has refrained from bombing Yugoslav and Serbian
>television and radio transmitters because some NATO members regard them as
>civilian targets, but NATO alliance spokesman Jamie Shea has denounced them
>as "Milosevic's war machine."
>[SOURCE: Washington Post (A1), AUTHOR: Michael Dobbs]
>Issue: Mergers/Regulation
>Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), chairman of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee
>last week that his panel will soon propose a bill that would reduce the
>of time the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has to review a merger
>applications. The bill would require the FCC to take not more than 7
months to
>review a telecommunications merger application. The FCC would have 30 days
>after the initial request to data from interested parties and another 180
>to decide on the merger. Along with Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Senator
>Thurmond (R-SC), Cumulus Media Chairman Richard Weening also endorses the
>Cumulus Media waited a full year for the FCC to approve its acquisition of a
>small radio station in Florence, SC. Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch
>(R-UT) says the bill is not strong enough. A Hatch staffer says he would
>legislation to reduce the FCC's merger review power.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 20), AUTHOR: Bill McConnell]
>(c)Benton Foundation, 1999. Redistribution of this email publication -- both
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Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000

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