Headlines Extra -- Broadcasting 4/13/99

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 22 Apr 1999 16:32:19 -0700 (PDT)

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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
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>other pertinent communications-related news events. This service is
>available online at (www.benton.org/News/).
>Headlines Extra -- Broadcasting 4/13/99
> Lieberman Ponders Digital TV Public Interest Bill (B&C)
> CPB's Target for Now: Enough Fed Aid for DTV 'Pass-Through' (Current)
> DTV Sets Adjust to the Market (B&C)
> Activists Mapping Campaign For Pubcasting Independence (Current)
> Fee Boost, CPB Match Would Swell PBS Program Purse (Current)
> Public TV Evenly Split On 30-Second Credits (Current)
> The Word Is Out On Public Radio's Demographics (Current)
> Fox Spot-Grab Riles Affiliates (B&C)
> The Fog of War (B&C)
> Soap Net Stirs ABC Affil Drama (B&C)
> At FCC, A Referee for the Future (NYT)
> Texas Radio May Get FCC Reprieve (B&C)
> Minority Fund: Few Details Emerge (B&C)
> Campaign Seeks To Stifle A Film on the Touchiest Of Gay Subjects
>Issue: Digital TV
>Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) is seeking bipartisan support prior to
>introducing legislation based on some of the public-interest recommendations
>of the Gore Commission. One question he is considering, according to his
>staff, is whether digital TV is developed well enough to warrant legislation
>regarding public-interest requirements. In the last session of Congress Sen.
>Lieberman introduced legislation similar to a Gore Commission recommendation
>that would have exempted broadcasters from antitrust law to allow them to
>create a programming code of conduct.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 22), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak & Bill McConnell]
>Issue: Digital TV
>In testimony before the House appropriations subcommittee, president of the
>Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB), Robert Coonrad supported Clinton's
>proposal to invest $450 million in digital conversion. The original
>joint-proposal by CPB, PBS, NPR and APTS was 70 percent higher -- $770
>Coonrad told the committee that, "the costlier estimate put forward by the
>field envisioned an expansion of pubcasting services through enhanced
>television and multicasting." The more modest proposal CPB supports ensures
>that the government pays 25 percent of the total cost of DTV conversion --
>allowing local stations to receive the PBS national feed and broadcast it
>without "local enhancements," and multicast local programs in standard
>definition digital. In response to a question by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA),
>Coonrad pledged support for the Independent Television Service and minority
>consortia when CPB's own federal appropriations begin to increase next year.
>[SOURCE: Current (p. 8), AUTHOR: Karen Everhart Bedford]
>Issue: Digital TV/Technology
>Only months after the first generation of digital TV receivers arrived, the
>second generation is arriving with updated features and similar prices.
>Some of the set changes are due to practical concerns from dealers; others
>are the result of broadcasters' technology decisions. One of the major
>changes for the Panasonic models is the decision to include 720p as an
>available scan format in addition to 480p and 1080i. After the original sets
>were manufactured, ABC and Fox announced their HDTV broadcasts would be in
>720p, not in 1080i. While adding that feature, Panasonic plans to keep the
>price of the new set close to $6,000. Samsung is making a running change to
>its fully integrated 55-inch HDTV rear-projection receiver by adding
>broadband component video inputs in place of RGB connections. The sets will
>continue to be $8000. Other manufacturers have delayed market introduction
>of sets. Thomson plans to introduce in the second half of this year a $649
>DTV set-top box which will receive DirecTV's standard and high-def satellite
>services as well as over-the-air DTV broadcasts. Panasonic's original DTV
>set-top box (priced at $1,599) sold quickly, primarily to broadcasters
>themselves. But it and other boxes have helped to expose other problems,
>including "chroma prediction drift," a lip-sync delay, and problems with the
>new Program and System Information Protocol (PSIP), primarily station
>installation problems and lack of programming.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 42), AUTHOR: Greg Tarr]
>Issue: Public Broadcasting
>Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting is a new organization,
starting up
>in Washington DC, "to campaign for a pubcasting system beholden to neither
>politician nor business," Current reports. Organizers include, Jeff Cohen, of
>Fairness and Accuracy in the Media (FAIR), Jack Willis, a public TV
>Robert McChesney, University of Wisconsin communication historian and William
>Hoynes, author of "Public Broadcasting for Sale." The organization is
>encouraged by a January report by the Benton Foundation and the Project on
>Media Ownership that found strong support for a law that would require
>commercial broadcasting companies to support public broadcasting.
>[SOURCE: Current (p. 3)]
>Issue: Public Broadcasting
>On March 25, the PBS Board endorsed its management draft budget which
>$230 million in spending for fiscal year 2000 -- 11 percent more than
>the 1999 budget. Included in the plan is a fee increase for member
stations of
>$4.65 million. If this is approved, CPB will provide $3 million as an
>incentive. This would give PBS $7.65 million to spend. $6.45 million will be
>spent on prime-time programming, $1.2 million on new children's programs. PBS
>also plans to spend money on advertising, online content, and program rights
>acquisition, according to the PBS Chief Financial Officer Beth Wolfe. The
>will be circulated to member stations this month and the PBS board is
>to adopt the budget in June. The proposed budget includes spending $173
>on the National Program Service, exceeding the original plan of $165 million.
>Beth Wolfe said, "The backdrop for 2000 is quite different: federal aid to
>the field will increase 20%, but PBS and stations are feeling heat from
>cable competitors and the transition to digital." She says it is now up to
>stations whether or not they want to hold to PBS's original
>pledge or to back the "growth fund" by investing in the National Program
>[SOURCE: Current (p. 9), AUTHOR: Karen Everhart Bedford]
>Issue: Advertising
>A $450,000 underwriting study, conducted by PBS, found that there is a 50-50
>split on whether or not PBS should air 30 second underwriting spots. A
rule was
>proposed in 1995 that would charge stations a program-fee penalty for
airing 30
>second spots. The board has left the pending policy in limbo. The study found
>the way to boost underwriting sales is to revamp management practices.
>don't know the facts about how they're doing, says Rob Gardiner, of Maine
>Broadcasting and chairman of the PBS board that oversaw the study.
>Findings of the study will be posted online after a brief follow-up study.
>Gardiner says the study was inconclusive but PBS will have to consider the
>voice of "significant opinion-makers" on the matter. Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA)
>and Rep. Edward Marky (D-MA), introduced a bill last year that would cut
>underwriting from 30 seconds to 10. Gardiner says these two leaders of the
>House telecommunications committee "are clearly in a position to reckon
>[SOURCE: Current (p. A1), AUTHOR: Steve Behrens]
>Issue: Demographics
>Arbitron, a data company that tracks radio listeners, is now offering
>information about listeners' income and education (along with the current
>on age, sex and race) at the request of commercial stations. Public radio
>listener information is also newly available to commercial radio in premium
>reports. Audience 98, a PBS study of public radio demographics found that
>public radio's most educated audience is the most annoyed at pledge drives.
>While college graduates make up 65% of public radio listeners, they
provide 80%
>of the funding. The availability of income level information, as well as
>radio listener information makes public television more vulnerable to
>commercial radio competition.
>[SOURCE: Current (p. 19), AUTHOR: Leslie Peters]
>Issue: Television
>Fox dropped a bombshell on its affiliates last week, reclaiming 22% of its
>prime time commercial load stations get to sell locally. Fox affiliates are
>mad over the network's unilateral decision to yank 20 of the 90 weekly
>30-second prime time local spots. There's also widespread belief among Fox
>affiliates that the network was attempting to lessen asset values within the
>station industry -- so that it could swoop in and buy stations at cheaper
>prices. In a letter to affiliates last week, Fox Television President Larry
>Jacobson cited the poor economics of network television, and the "widening
>imbalance in profits" between the network and its affiliates as reasons for
>the move. The network is offering a buy-back option to stations at a rate
>that is less than Fox estimates the spots can be sold for locally.
>Affiliates contacted last week by Broadcasting and Cable, without exception,
>said all affiliates would take a loss on the inventory shift whether the
>buy-back option is exercised. The unexpected Fox action comes a week after
>ABC terminated negotiations with its affiliate board on exclusivity, the NFL
>and a planned soap opera channel.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 14), AUTHOR: Steve McClellan]
>Issue: Content/Censorship
>Because of lack of access to Kosovo and Serbia to document war damage, much
>of the television coverage of the latest Balkan crisis has centered on the
>refugee crisis. Trying to cover both angles of the war means spending
>millions of dollars weekly and sucking up increasing amounts of resources.
>News executives last week estimated that ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN have spent
>between $2 million and $4 million each ramping up coverage after the NATO
>bombs started falling. Estimates for Fox News run lower, about $750,000,
>because they get a major assist from Sky News, News Corp.'s international
>news service. If NATO decides to launch a ground war, all the networks would
>expand their coverage significantly. Executives say they have been telling
>producers and crews to pack for three weeks. "It's impossible to know how
>long it will be, but even if there were a cease-fire today there would be
>several more weeks" of intense coverage, says Bill Wheatley, vice president
>of NBC News. Right after NATO started bombing runs, the Serbs rounded up
>Western journalists in Kosovo and Belgrade and expelled them. Some
>correspondents have been allowed back into Belgrade; none have regained
>access to Kosovo. Reports coming from Belgrade are subject to review by
>government authorities and must be filed through Serb television facilities.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 4), AUTHOR: Steve McClellan]
>ABC is going ahead with its plan to launch a soap opera channel, tentatively
>named "All My Soaps." The channel will repeat four shows that air earlier in
>the day on the broadcast network's daytime schedule, including All My
>Children and General Hospital. ABC's decision is aimed at recapturing
>working women who no longer watch daytime soaps but might be more likely to
>do so in prime time. The decision follows a test in three cable markets last
>year. The announcement also follows by a week the collapse of talks between
>ABC and affiliates over their relationship structure. Included in those
>talks was how to "repurpose" programming, most notably how quickly a show
>could be re-aired on a cable network.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 15), AUTHOR: John M. Higgins & Steve
>Issue: Policymakers
>While William Kennard my be the nations highest ranking telecommunications
>official, he has often found himself with little latitude to make policy
>decisions regard this increasingly important and lucrative industry. As a
>consensus appointee to the post of Chairman of the Federal Communication
>Commission, Kennard has never enjoyed particularly strong support from
>either the Administration or Congress. Many in Congress have be
>exceptionally critical of this Chairman who is eager to fight for greater
>minority access to the nation's airwaves, but slow to implement industry's
>deregulatory agenda. "Chairman Kennard has been off on these other agendas
>before he completed the work he was assigned to complete - the deregulation
>of the marketplace, " said Representative Billy Tauzin (LA-R), one of his
>most vocal critics. The Commission's continued rejection of applications
>from the Baby Bells to enter the long distance market has alienated the
>agency from telephone companies and their powerful friends on the Hill.
>Broadcasters are also up in arms over a recent proposal of Kennard's to
>create a new class of low-power FM radio stations, which according to him
>would give voice to the traditionally voiceless. Current station owners say
>the new licenses would unfairly interfere with existing signals. William
>Kennard, who views increased minority stake in telecommunications and
>deployment of services to the undeserved as integral aspects of
>deregulation, has his fans too. Andrew Jay Schwartzman, President of the
>Media Access Project, has been a supporter and friend to the Chairman. "In
>implementing the telecom structure for the next decade and beyond, he's
>determined to retain the steady pressure for increased diversity that he
>rightly believes has been one of the most powerful forces for retaining
>America's lead in the world economy," said Schwartzman.
>[SOURCE: New York Times ( 4/11/99), AUTHOR: Stephen Labaton]
>Issue: Minorities/Radio
>KFCC (FM) of Bay City, TX was ordered a year ago to give up its license.
>the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) distress-sale policy, the
>that offers "a blend of different ethnic and foreign language broadcasts"
>be able to keep its license if it is sold to a minority. Bernard Smoots, an
>African American former KFCC employee would pay $100,000 for the station. The
>FCC says this plan is part of their mission to act in the "public
interest" and
>to diversify broadcasting. The license was originally revoked because station
>owner, Chameleon Radio, moved the station transmitter closer to the Houston
>market when the FCC had told them not to. When Chameleon Radio first proposed
>to implement the distress-sale policy, they were refused because the policy
>requires the station to be sold before the FCC takes on the expense of a
>revocation hearing. After Chameleon Radio reduced its price tag and the FCC
>considered that its diverse broadcast would cease, they allowed the sale
to go
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 19), AUTHOR: Bill McConnell]
>Issue: Minorities
>A group of TV executives met last week as part of an industry-launched
>initiative to explore ways to aid minorities in broadcasting. "We want to see
>if there isn't a way to collectively do more effectively what we already have
>been doing individually," said CBS Senior Vice President Martin Franks. The
>initiative, launched in February, came as a response to FCC initiatives on
>minorities that broadcasters were unhappy with. They are particularly opposed
>to a FCC initiative that would take away some local marketing agreements.
>Sources close to the situation say that broadcasters aren't using their own
>initiatives as a "quid pro quo" because the group of broadcasters don't agree
>themselves on what path the FCC should take. No one would give details of the
>meeting. The group of broadcast executives plan on meeting again in early
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 19), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak and Bill
>Issue: Censorship/ Education
>Some PBS stations across the country are receiving flack for a documentary
>film, "It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in Schools." The film, not
>backed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) or Public
>Service (PBS), features elementary classrooms discussions that kids have when
>teachers ask students "their views on what it means to be gay or lesbian,"
>Bedford Reports. Conservative groups, American Family Association and Coral
>Ridge are launching campaigns against the film. James Kennedy of the Florida
>based, Coral Ridge is calling on contributors of CPB to petition the House
>Appropriations Committee. The co-producer, Debra Chasnoff, creator of "Deadly
>Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment," says she
>started thinking about the film after Pat Robertson's 1992 anti-gay speech at
>the Republican National Convention and her son was about to enter public
>elementary school. She wanted to contribute to public dialogue in preventing
>gay prejudice: "We decided to film what happens [during classroom discussion]
>and let people decide for themselves whether it's good or not." KQED of San
>Francisco is broadcasting a 60 minute version of "It's Elementary" in
June. In
>Memphis, WKNO has decided not to air "It's Elementary." They received 24
>weekly in late March opposing the film. KQED says the handfuls of dissenting
>audience members that have called have not seen the film and when they are
>what the program is like, they listen.
>[SOURCE: Current (p. 1), AUTHOR: Karen Everhart Bedford]
>(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)