Communications headlines

Gary Handman (
Tue, 11 May 1999 12:22:56 -0700 (PDT)

Issue: Cable
No, this isn't another digital TV story...the recent purchases of cable
systems are driving the value of those systems up to $5,000 per subscriber.
Through cable converters, subscribers will be able to do more than watch TV;
they'll interact with it. The bet of major media players is that these new
services will increase demand enough and lower costs enough to justify the
purchase prices. "The reason people were paying $2,000 per sub is that's the
net present value of $40 in cable revenue a month in perpetuity," said
PaineWebber cable analyst Tom Eagan. "But it isn't just the $40 any longer.
It's also $45 for Internet, and maybe $70-$80 for telephone." In 1998, cable
operators capital spending reached $180-$220 per subscriber (up from
$80-$120 in '95) to upgrade systems to the industry standard 750MHz
capacity. But there's a lot of risk as operators must now rollout new
services using new technology.
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p. 16), AUTHOR: John Higgins]

Issue: Digital TV/Media Strategies
With Microsoft's $5 billion stake in AT&T to develop set-top boxes, the
company has gotten closer to its goal of melding the PC, the Internet, and TV
into a "leviathan living-room entertainment and information machine," Markoff
reports. The intersection of the nation's most vibrant industries -- media,
computing, entertainment, and telecommunications motivate the quest for this
trio. So far, Microsoft's quest into digital television has included WebTV,
Time Warner's Road Runner, four European interactive cable TV investments,
and now AT&T. Whereas TV sets are in 98% of US homes, PC's are only in 50%.
A Windows operating system monopoly on set-top boxes could limit sales in
the PC industry even more. However, Gates may be ignoring challenges, such
as consumer indifference to interactive TV and alternative technologies for
delivering the Internet. PC companies, digital videocassette recorder
manufacturers, as well as video game makers will continue to fragment the
cable-TV market. Distancing the company from Time Warner's investment in
interactive TV that failed in 1997, Microsoft executives say there is
a business rationale for investing in interactive TV. "Deregulation is
a single supplier and pipe into the home to provide digital television,
telephony, and high-speed Internet access," said Hank Vigil, vice president
consumer strategy at Microsoft.
[SOURCE: New York Times (C1), AUTHOR: John Markoff]

Issue: DTV
Mitsubishi, a manufacture of digital TV equipment, has pledged to pay CBS's
extra production costs in airing prime-time series in high-definition for
the 1999-2000 television season. In this, the first deal in which a
manufacture will pay to stimulate demand for digital TVs, Mitsubishi had
agreed to spend over $10 million to help translate 12 to 14 hours of
prime-time shows into digital code. Since digital television receivers
became available last August, only 20,000 have been purchased, while 15
million analog TVs have been bought within the same time period. Mitsubishi
is hoping that CBS deal will enhance the manufacture's reputation in the DTV
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B12), AUTHOR: Evan Ramstad]

Issue: Children & Media
Chairman Kennard Announces Launch of "Parents, Kids, and Communications
Page" ( on FCC Web site in Remarks
at the Annenberg Public Policy Center Conference on Internet and the Family in
Washington (DC) (see
>From Press Release: Noting that some parents, while excited about the
opportunities that the Internet offers, are overwhelmed by a medium that
seems too vast to control and too complicated to understand, William E.
Kennard, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), offered
some help via the FCC's own Web site. In a speech at the Annenberg School of
Public Policy National Conference on the Internet and the Family today in
Washington, DC, he announced the inauguration of a "Parents, Kids, and
Communications Page" on the FCC Web site. The page will give parents
easy-to-understand information on some of the tools available to them to
provide a "chaperone" for their children as they explore the vast landscape
of the Internet. "In one easy-to-use, easy-to-find place -- we
have included information on a whole range of filtering software," Chairman
Kennard said. He added, "With one click of the mouse, parents will be able
to learn about these products, how they work, and how much they cost. With
one click of the mouse, parents will be able to take the steps they need to
protect their kids. We also included on the Web site information on how to
block 1-900 calls and on how to get a cable 'lock-box' to block out the
channels that you don't want your children to see." The site also includes a
section explaining the TV ratings system and the V-chip. With the V-chip,
parents can use the new TV ratings system that is in place to see what they
don't want their kids to watch, and then program the chip to block them.
Chairman Kennard said, "I am proud to say that because of the hard work of
the President, Vice President, and Congress, in two months time, half of all
new TV sets in this country will have this little silicon chip - the V-chip.
And, by January 2000, all TVs will have it."
See also:
Issue: Internet
Powerfully mixed feelings about the American family and the Internet were
quantified yesterday at a Washington summit called to introduce and debate
the results of a national survey on parents' attitudes about their
children's experiences online. The meeting included scholars, librarians,
government regulators, and other experts in the field. Joseph Turow, an
Internet expert at the University of Pennsylvania who directed the survey,
said, "Kids can go anywhere" and that produces rewards and dangers. Federal
Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard said the Columbine
killings exacerbated parental fears about the Information Age but renewed
the need for parents to talk to their children about everything, including
where they go on the Internet. Some at the meeting worried that filtering
software would inhibit free speech and
honest inquiry. Prior to the meeting Ann Symons, president of the American
Library Association, stressed the importance of teaching children critical
thinking skills and worried about limiting access, especially in libraries.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Mary Otto]

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000

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