Headlines Extra -- Broadcasting 5/4/99

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Tue, 11 May 1999 12:21:37 -0700 (PDT)

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>Subject: Headlines Extra -- Broadcasting 5/4/99
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>Headlines Extra is a free online news service provided by the Benton
>Foundation (www.benton.org/cpphome.html). Much like our daily,
>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/Extra).
> People for Better Television
> DTV Implementation Rules (FCC)
> WETA-TV's DTV Quartet (B&C)
> Cable-Digital Marriage A Blessing (B&C)
> Broadcast Ownership for the 21st Century Act/HR 942 (Thomas)
> Sat TV Bill Passes House 422-1 (B&C)
> Why Was Network Television So Attracted To The
> Littleton Shootings? (NYT)
> Littleton's Latest Suspect (B&C)
> High Cards in High Court (B&C)
>Issue: Digital TV
>"Currently, just seven large corporations, such as General Electric and Time
>Warner, own the vast majority of all local television stations across the
>country," said Mark Lloyd, Executive Director of the Civil Rights Forum on
>Communications Policy. "We need the FCC to begin to protect the interests of
>the little guy. We want TV that serves the needs of ordinary Americans in
>their local communities. We have a right to ask for these things because TV
>broadcasters use our public property -- the airwaves." At a pres conference
>yesterday, Mr. Lloyd and other public interest advocates announced the
>launch of People for Better Television, a coalition urging the Federal
>Communications Commission to start a public rulemaking to define the compact
>between television station owners and the communities they are licensed to
>serve. PBTV is submitting a petition to the FCC which argues that the needs
>of parents, children and communities must be protected in the digital age.
>"TV must begin to respect the needs of families and their children. Will the
>needs of parents be protected over digital TV? We need the FCC to go to bat
>for kids," declared Dr. Dan Levy of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The
>coalition will be urging all Americans to call upon the FCC to take action
>on behalf of the public and set standards for television station owners as
>they enter the digital age. "To protect the interests of consumers, the FCC
>should begin public hearings on the public interest obligations of digital
>television broadcasters without further delay," said former Senator Howard
>Metzenbaum, chairman of the Consumer Federation of America. "We are
>concerned about issues of privacy and excessive rates for pay-per-view
>programming over the public airwaves." "Digital Television can be a great
>educational tool for all Americans, if the FCC sets the right standards for
>the 21st Century," said Ms. Merlie Evers-Williams of the NAACP. Additional
>information is available at (www.bettertv.org)
>Issue: Digital Television
>Chairman Kennard's Statement on DTV Implementation Rules Effective May 1st:
>May 1st, FCC rules become effective calling for the ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC
>affiliates in each of the top ten television markets to begin programming on
>their digital television channels. I am pleased that the DTV transition is
>largely on schedule and that broadcasters are joining the digital
>revolution. In addition, there are two other developments of equal
>(1) Many TV stations, as well as the 40 top-ten market stations subject to
>the May lst deadline, have already moved ahead to launch their DTV
>operations; and
>(2) The questions surrounding DTV implementation are no longer whether, or
>when, but how best to implement DTV and what new opportunities exist for
>broadcasters in a world of convergence.
>Over 270 stations from TV markets 1 through 90 have filed construction
>permit applications for DTV facilities, and over 150 of these have already
>been granted. Thus over six times the 40 top-ten market stations required to
>start up May 1, 1999, and over twice the 120 top-thirty market stations
>required to be on the air by next November 1, 1999, have already begun
>serious DTV planning and have requested permits to proceed. A particularly
>revealing development was that major discussion about digital television at
>last week's National Association of Broadcasters convention was not about
>the build-out of DTV, but about how to use it: how to provide integrated
>program and data delivery systems with their digital capability; how to use
>DTV to compete with internet providers; and in short, how over-the-air
>television broadcasters can use DTV to be a significant competitor in the
>digital age of convergence. To be sure, there are still important issues to
>be addressed, such as: DTV set manufacturing; regular DTV programming;
>antenna tower siting issues in some cities, including some of the top-ten
>markets; set-top box and digital-cable ready set compatibility; must carry;
>and copyright protection. But the DTV train is rolling out of the station,
>and broadcasters are climbing aboard to be part of the digital revolution of
>the 21st century.
>Issue: Digital TV
>WETA-TV, the public TV station of Washington (DC) and a leader in HDTV
>production, scheduled an experiment with SDTV multicasting for May 1. The
>station planned to multicast four distinct
>services and include a mock electronic program guide that simulates the
>service it may offer in the future using DTV's Program and System
>Information Protocol (PSIP). Terry Bryant, WETA-TV's senior vice president
>of broadcasting, says the station isn't committed to multicasting, but she
>points to a situation a few weeks ago when children's programming had to be
>dropped for the impeachment hearings as a time when multicasting would have
>been useful. WETA-TV placed an order for a Harris/Lucent Flexicoder as its
>DTV encoder and anticipates its new all-digital facility should be completed
>by early fall. WETA-TV has completed seven HD programs and is currently
>producing an HD program on the art of John Singer Sargent.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 40), AUTHOR: Glen Dickson]
>Issue: DTV
>Cable TV will increasingly depend on subscriptions, not ads, for a major
>portion of revenue, predicts Richard Billotti in "Multichannel
>Metamorphisis," a study on the future of video media. Billotti also expects
>broadcasters to continue to lose both viewers and ad dollars to cable
>networks. Increasing audience fragmentation will lead to 10-12 top TV/cable
>networks, each of which will average little more than 2-3 rating points.
>Broadcasting, however, will not die in the Digital Age, predicts Billotti.
>The increased channel capacity and variety of uses that digital TV brings
>will actually revive viewership over the next decade. Pay networks, like HBO
>and Starz! will benefit most from digital because they have no commercials,
>says Billotti.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 38), AUTHOR: John Higgins]
>Issue: Broadcast Ownership
>The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection
>postponed a hearing on HR 942 that was originally scheduled for today. The
>bill, introduced March 2 by Rep Cliff Stearns (R-FL, 6th District), would
>amend the Communications Act of 1934 to reduce restrictions on media
>ownership in four main sections: 1) revision of duopoly rules, 2)
>crossownership limitations, 3) limitation on FCC authority, and 4)
>reciprocal treatment of foreign ownership restrictions. Concerning duopoly,
>the bill would restrict the FCC from prohibiting ownership of a) two
>stations with overlapping coverage contours if each station is in a separate
>television market or b) two stations within the same market if at least one
>of them is a UHF station. This section would also protect existing local
>marketing agreements and allow "in unusual and compelling circumstances" the
>ownership of two VHF stations in the same market. The cross-ownership
>provisions would allow a) daily newspapers to own radio and/or television
>stations, b) ownership of a broadcast outlet and a cable system in the same
>community, and c) a broadcast outlet to affiliate with a single entity that
>runs two or more broadcast networks. The bill would ease national ownership
>limitations by increasing the national audience reach limitation for
>television stations to 45%. Finally, the bill revises provisions prohibiting
>the granting of radio station licenses to aliens or foreign entities to
>allow the granting of such a
>license to the same manner and extent to which such alien's or entity's
>country allows the granting of such a license to a US person or entity. The
>bill has eight co-sponsors. In introducing the bill Rep Stearns said, "Our
>bill will broadly deregulate the confining ownership limitations imposed by
>the FCC on the television broadcast industry. As we approach the dawn of a
>new century, it is time to reform the antiquated rules and regulations of
>the FCC that they cling to in an effort to replicate the communications
>world of the 1950s." Learn more about this bill at Thomas
>(http://thomas.loc.gov/); learn more about Rep Stearns at
>Issue: Regulation/Satellite TV
>Last week, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow
>satellite companies to offer customers local TV signals. The bill requires
>satellite companies to offer all local TV signals to markets they serve by
>1, 2002. "This bill is designed to put satellite TV providers on that equal
>[with cable,]" said Rep. Tauzin, as well as providing customers with more
>choices of content and
>prices they wish to pay. The House passed the bill rapidly in response to
>complaints from subscribers since last October. A federal court had ordered
>satellite TV companies to cease sending distant network signals to almost 2
>million subscribers. Because of agreements between some satellite carriers
>and broadcasters, only 20% of subscribers will lose their distant signals.
>The remainder, those living in "the outer portion of the local broadcast
>signal" will not lose broadcast signals until the end of the year.
>Broadcasting and satellite industry groups support the bill, but are leery
>of some of its provisions that are still in dispute. Dennis Wharton of the
>National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) called the bill ac"framework for
>moving forward." Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association
>(SBCA) President Chuck Hewitt said, "Our efforts will be directed to
>ensuring that all consumers have access to the widest range of high-quaility
>programming and increased competitive choices in the video marketplace."
>Disputed provisions include:
>* EchoStar says it will not support the bill unless local broadcasters are
>required to provide their signal to multichannel video providers
>non-exclusively until January, 1, 2006.
>* Broadcasters oppose the provision that would allow satellite carriers to
>provide distant signals to subscribers in Grad B contours (35 miles beyond
>signal) without applying exclusivity rules. The bill would allow these
folds to
>receive both local and imported signals.
>* Satellite carriers would have to provide free antennas to Grade A contour
>folks (within local broadcasting area) who receive distant feeds. The Clinton
>administration opposes this provision, calling it an "unfunded mandate."
>* For the next 6 months, households in Grade B contour will be able to
>import distant signals even if they are able to receive local signals with a
>rooftop antenna. The bill
>requires the FCC to devise a tool to determine whether or not households can
>receive local signals. Subscribers proven to receive local signals will have
>distant signals shut off.
>* Broadcasters and satellite carriers would have to pay equally for tests to
>determine whether or not a household could receive local signals.
>say they usually find households can receive local signals and therefore they
>shouldn't have to pay for tests.
>* Small and independent cable operators oppose the provision that would
>allow satellite carriers to avoid regulation by negotiating directly with
>local broadcasters, saying they don't have
>the same option.
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 21), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak]
>Issue: Journalism
>While many Americans have been mesmerized by the recent barrage of images
>from Littletton (CO) of frightened teenagers and grieving parents, some
>have questioned whether the coverage really fits the crime. According to
>Andrew Tyndall, an industry consultant, the first week of TV news coverage
>was "unprecedented and disproportionate." Tyndall found that ABC, CBS, and
>NBC together spent 144 minute on the tragedy over 4 days, while only 65
>were spent covering the killings in Jonesboro one year ago. Issues of race
>and class might explain some of inordinate attention given to the massacre
>in suburban Denver, posits Tyndall. Hugh Price, president of the National
>Urban League agrees. "We seem to be a little more immune to and oblivious to
>violence in urban areas," he noted. "We assume it goes with the territory.
>In the eyes of many Americans, people of color are not quite whole people."
>Several journalist and news producers were quick to point to other reasons
>for the abundant coverage. Susan Zirinsky, executive producer of CBS' "48
>Hours," explained that the people of Littleton had a more welcoming attitude
>toward the press than did residents of other communities that have
>experienced similar school massacres. "They didn't understand had what
>happened...both print and television press became a vehicle for a cathartic
>experience for everyone involved, said Zirinsky.
>[SOURCE: New York Times 5/3/99 (C1), AUTHOR: Lawrie Mifflin]
>Issue: Regulation/Content
>In the aftermath of the Littleton shooting, the Clinton Administration,
>regulators, policymakers, industry folks, and advocates are responding. Last
>Thursday, Motion Picture Association (MPA) President Jack Valenti, National
>Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President Eddie Fritts and National Cable
>Television Association (NCTA) President Decker Anstrom, gathered to forge
>response to those who are blaming the media for the Littleton shooting.
>President Clinton has invited Internet executives, gun and explosive makers,
>Government officials, and religious leaders to the White House on May 10
for a
>"strategy session on children, violence, and responsibility." Last week, at a
>Capitol Hill press conference, Rep Ed Markey (D-MA), author of the
>V-chip bill, said guns and media violence cannot be separated. Senator Joseph
>Lieberman (D-CT) warned that if industry does not regulate itself, "there
>be serious attempts to impose censorship in this country, and that will be
a sad
>Post-Littleton policy initiatives include:
>* A joint resolution in the House and the Senate last week would require the
>Surgeon General to complete an 18 month report on how media affects children.
>* Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MI) called for a National
Conference on
>Youth and Culture.
>* Senator Sam Brownback (R-KA) will hold a hearing to examine media
>violence. MPA
>President Valenti, Senator Lieberman (D-CT), and Record Industry Association
>President Hilary Rosen are scheduled to testify.
>* FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani has been named head of a task force to
>implement the V-chip.
>* Sen Ernest Hollings (D-SC) introduced a bill, called "safe-harbor,"
last week
>that would limit broadcasting of violent content to hours when children would
>be unlikely to watch.
>Broadcasters are in a tough position, believing they don't deserve the new
>legislation, but "if they actively fight against it, they look like the bad
>guys," Albiniak reports. Many broadcasters say the looser standards for
sex and
>violence on cable are to blame.
>Last year, the US Conference on Mayors recommended that viewers boycott
>products that sponsor violent TV, but there hasn't been much action since
>then. Two major companies -- General Motors, and IBM -- say they are taking
>efforts to pull advertising away from violent programming. Proctor and
>Gamble spokeswoman, Gretchen Briscoe says violent programming is only one
>element involved in the problem. As a counter to violent programming P&G is
>a founding company of Forum for Family Friendly Programming. JC Penney has
>announced that it is pulling merchandize based on Comedy Central's South
>Park, in which the cartoon character Kenny is killed in each episode. Other
>industry efforts include NBC's plan to increase their "The More You Know"
>series of public service announcements. Court TV has launched "Choices and
>Consequences," using courtroom footage to show the consequences of
>committing violence. Last week, the NAB announced that it will "help local
>stations prepare for community crisis" by distributing a taped educational
>forum to stations. A new batch of PSA's from the Ad Council, instructing
>viewers on safe use of firearms are expected to arrive soon at local
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 6), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak]
>Issue: Legal Issues
>[Editorial] The Supreme Court heard arguments last week in broadcasters'
>challenge of the ban on TV advertisements of legal gambling. As it stands,
>the government can encourage gambling, and does, through ads for state
>lotteries and the exception it has made for ads from casinos run by Native
>Americans. The Supreme Court has already made itself heard loud and clear on
>this subject. In the "Liquormart" case in 1996 that overturned a state ban
>on price advertising for hard liquor, the Court held that the state "does
>not have the broad discretion to suppress truthful, non-misleading
>information for paternalistic purposes." In that case the Court's majority
>opinion clearly supported free speech over regulated conduct. The editorial
>concludes that broadcasters are holding all the high cards. [Yeah, and the
>high road, too -- as always.]
>[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 62), AUTHOR: B&C Editorial Staff]
>(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)