Communications-related Headlines

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Wed, 23 Jun 1999 16:12:23 -0700 (PDT)

>BROADBAND
>
>AOL JOINS FORCES WITH SATELLITE FIRM
>Issue: Broadband
>AOL announced yesterday it will invest $1.5 billion in Hughes Electric --the
>digital television and satellite data giant-- to develop Internet access over
>satellite television signals. The alliance will allow AOL to compete with
AT&T
>and others delivering high-speed Internet access by making the speed of its
>Internet service 14 times faster. Steve Case, AOL's chairman said that they
>continued to have an interest in cable as a means to provide high-speed
>Internet access but that AOL wanted to create a "broadband tapestry" that
could
>deliver AOL's service through a range of technologies. The deal is
expected to
>speed up AOL's plans to develop AOL TV, which is part of a strategy called
"AOL
>Anywhere". The strategy is designed to provide Internet connections through
>devices other than computers. AOL TV will allow people to watch television
and
>buy CDs, chat with friends, etc., at the same time. Marketing is expected to
>begin early next year.
>[SOURCE: Washington Post (E1 ), AUTHOR: Shannon Henry]
>(http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-06/22/102l-062299-idx.html)
>See Also:
>BOOSTING HIGH-SPEED NET
>[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury, AUTHOR: Jon Healey]
>(http://www.sjmercury.com/svtech/news/indepth/docs/access062299.htm)
>See Also:
>AMERICA ONLINE TO PUT $1.5 BILLION INTO A HUGHES ALLIANCE
>[SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: Andrew Pollack]
>(http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/06/biztech/articles/22aol-hughes.ht
ml)
>
>
>MEDIA & SOCIETY
>
>FUTURE OF PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA'S ROLE IN THE DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY AGE
>[Conference] The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the Benton
>Foundation and the Hartford Gunn Institute are sponsoring a national
conference
>titled "The Role of Public Service Media in the Digital Telecommunications
Age:
>Defining a Strategic Vision." It will address the future role of public
service
>media. The invitation-only conference draws participation from the leadership
>of national foundations, public institutes such as museums, libraries,
>universities and public broadcasting organizations, as well as private
>corporations, particularly Internet providers. Four key issues relating to
the
>future of telecommunications technology and its impact on educational
>institutions and society as a whole is the focus of discussion for the
>three-day meeting.
>
>Specifically addressed will be how public service telecommunications can
>contribute to citizen participation in government affairs, civic discourse
and
>problem solving; contribute to educational excellence and opportunity at all
>age levels in our society; improve and enrich the content, quality, reach and
>impact of public broadcasting programs; and enhance and facilitate community
>building through public access to libraries, art museums, cultural
institutions
>and performing arts organizations. For more information see
>http://www.cde.psu.edu/ or contact Lori Pacchioli at lvp5@psu.edu>
>CABLE
>
>HIGH COURT TO REVIEW CABLE SEX LAW
>Issue: Cable
>This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case regarding
>sexually-oriented cable stations. Congress required adult cable stations to
>fully scramble or block their signals so non-subscribers could not receive
the
>fuzzy video of unwanted sexual images. Alternatively, cable channels could
show
>the programming between 10pm and 6am. The law was challenged by the
Playboy and
>Spice channels, which say there is no evidence that the fuzzy images harm
>children with fleeting exposure to them. They also contend that scrambling is
>too expensive and that they are losing money by showing their programming so
>late at night. Playboy lawyer Robert Corn-Revere said there is already a law
>that says blocking equipment can be requested from local cable companies and
>that new television sets have blue screens to block as well. Last December a
>federal judge ruled the laws violated cable channel speech and said there are
>less restrictive ways to handle the problem.
>[SOURCE: USA Today (4A), AUTHOR: Susan Tony Mauro]
>(http://usatoday.com/)
>
EXECUTION IS THE MANTRA
Issue: Cable
The National Cable Television Association convention is Chicago was a
coming-out party for AT&T's Michael Armstrong as well as a farewell fete for
TCI's John Malone and NCTA President Decker Anstrom. As cable is making
promises to be a full service provider -- video, Internet and telephony --
the emphasis of the convention seemed to be on execution: choosing the right
technology and making it work. With themes like "Enter the Broadband
Millennium," cable just ain't cable anymore. But the Portland, OR ruling on
open access contributed to a somber mood.
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p.8), AUTHOR: Price Colman]
(http://www.broadcastingcable.com/top/top_article.asp?articleID=692236583)

DIVERSITY: WHY IS IT STILL SO ELUSIVE
Issue: Diversity
"People of color, as a market, are larger than AT&T, Time Warner or
Comcast," said Bresnan Communications' Joe Lawson. They have $650 billion in
spending power; they are 20% of all cable subscribers; and they generate
$6.7 billion in cable subscriber revenue. Minorities make up 29.1% of the
cable work force -- but most are at the bottom. Of the 39,000 people of
color in the cable industry, none own a system and just 1 is in corporate
marketing. There are only five minority-owned cable networks. Studies show
that companies that diversify their management teams have as much as 50%
greater sales so, Lawson estimates, the absence in diversity in cable is
costing the industry billions. "If it makes us uncomfortable, it *should*
make us uncomfortable. But what should make us *more* uncomfortable is not
doing anything about it."
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p.40), AUTHOR: Deborah McAdams]
(http://www.broadcastingcable.com/)

CABLE TV GOING INTERACTIVE
Issue: Cable/Internet
As interactive TV services debut in a spattering of communities around the
country, it is apparent that real pioneers in this area are smaller cable
companies and not the industry giants. "We don't see them beating down our
door, asking for these services yet," said AT&T spokesman Andrew Johnson.
"I guess our research doesn't indicate that, as of today, the market's ripe
for
those kinds of services." But one interactive TV provider, Worldgate of
Bensalem, PA, reports a tripling of subscribers since just March. The
high-speed Internet access through cable connections is one of the big
attractions of these interactive TV services. Cable operators that have
invested heavily in costly upgrades to expand capacity and covert lines into
two-way networks, are eager to see a financial payback and hope interactive TV
might be just the ticket.
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, AUTHOR: Jon Healey]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/indepth/docs/cable062199.htm)
HOUSE REJECTS MEDIA CONTROL BILLS
Issue: Media & Society
There was a flurry of action in Washington last week concerning media and
children. This summer, the House and Senate will reconcile two versions of a
juvenile crime bill. The Senate version included media-related amendments,
but the House defeated an amendment by Rep Henry Hyde (R-IL) which would
have made it a crime to sell explicit violent or sexual material to minors
under 17. The entertainment industry is worried that it has become a large,
easy target in the wake of violence in schools this Spring. Jack Valenti,
head of the Motion Picture Industry Association of America, said "They are
expressing concern because they believe that some people in Congress have
gone mad and are acting like there is no Constitution."
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable (p.14), AUTHOR: Paige Albiniak]
(http://www.broadcastingcable.com/top/top_article.asp?articleID=692236566)

MEDIA&SOCIETY

HOUSE REJECTS CURBS ON SALES OF VIOLENT FILM
Issue: Media/Violence
The House rejected a bill yesterday that sought to outlaw the sale of
extremely
violent movies, video games and books to minors. The bill was rejected 282 to
146. It proved to be too controversial, as the opposition to the bill
complained of infringement of the First Amendment. The entertainment industry
lobbied Congress hard this week. As Jack Valenti, lobbyist for the
movie-industry said, "This isn't cigarettes or alcohol. This is creative work
that is protected by the First Amendment." The House is expected to vote to
approve a teen crime bill this week. The bill includes heavier gun control,
including background checks at gun shows.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B12), AUTHOR: Jeffery Taylor]
(http://wsj.com/)

BROADBAND

AT HOME QUESTIONS GTE TEST
Issue: Broadband
On Monday, GTE announced in Washington that it had a low-cost technology that
allows multiple Internet service provides (ISPs) to use the wires of a single
cable TV system. At Home, an affiliate of AT&T and provider of high-speed
Internet service, implied it was a political move to "incite other
municipalities to do what Portland did." A federal district court recently
ruled that Portland had authority to mandate cable companies to provide open
access to ISPs to service over cable networks. At Home criticized GTE's
conclusions on two counts, but GTE said At Home's concerns were misleading and
not relevant to "open access." AT&T has been on an acquisition spree of cable
systems which has created concern among Internet companies that they will not
be able to use AT&T's lines to reach customers.
[SOURCE: Washington Post (E6), AUTHOR: Shu Shin Luh]
(http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-06/17/210l-061799-idx.html)

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

DIGITAL MUSIC PLAYERS UPHELD
Issue: Intellectual Property
A federal court has ruled that San Jose-based Diamond can continue to sell its
popular hand-held MP3 player. The Recording Industry of Association America
had
sought to prevent Diamond from distributing the Rio music player by filing a
suite against the company last October. The Rio, which sells for about
$169.95,
allows people to play music downloaded from the Internet using MP3 compression
technology. The recording industry is concerned that devices like the Rio will
lead to rampant music piracy on the Web. Unauthorized sites using MP3
technology can provide illegal recordings that artists and record companies
will receive no compensation for. The court, however, found that Rio is
consistent with the federal Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which aims to
"ensure the right of consumers to make analog or digital audio recordings of
copyrighted music for their private, non-commercial use.''
[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury , AUTHOR: Deborah Kong]
(http://www.mercurycenter.com/svtech/news/indepth/docs/rio061699.htm)

PUMPING NEW LIFE INTO CABLE
Issue: Cable
AT&T Chief Executive Michael Armstrong has seen the future of cable --
interactive television. Wait...did I write 'future' or 'history'?
Interactive TV, video-on-demand, 500 channel...this was the rage of cable
eight years ago. But Mr Armstrong insists that this history is cable's
future -- "a future where television breaks out of the passive mode forever
and adds a dimension of consumer choice and control that, until now, has
been just talk." Online banking, shopping et al...this'll all be done as
America's two most user-friendly devices -- TVs and telephones -- converge.
Orchestrating the merger of AT&T and TCI has done more to accelerate this
convergence than anything, but interactive TV has not been so prominent in
AT&T's earlier announcements. "It's not that (interactive TV) was rolled out
and didn't work so much as the interactive TV rhetoric exceeded capital
expenditures," Armstrong explains. "It never did get rolled out. That's what
is so exciting now, because it will happen, not based on some dream, but
based on hard-nosed business decisions."
[SOURCE: Chicago Tribune (Sec 3, p.1), AUTHOR: Jon Van]
(http://chicagotribune.com/business/printedition/article/0,2669,SAV-99061500
88,FF.html)

MOVIE-RATING GROUP IS FRISKING ADS FOR GUNS
Issue: Media & Society
Are they responding from government pressure regarding violent content or is
the Motion Picture Association of America "trying to be a part of the
movement"
against youth violence? Jack Valenti, the President of MPAA, says the latter
is the reason for becoming tougher on violent imagery in movie trailers and
advertisements such as guns directly pointed at the camera. Mr Valenti says
the voluntary ratings system is designed for parents and he believes the
movie industry will tone itself down -- especially if theaters reject movies
without the MPAA's volunteer rating. However, just two weeks ago, when an
advertisement including a pointed gun was brought to the MPAA by Trimark
Holdings, the MPAA rejected it only to approve a resubmitted ad that
substituted in a knife.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (B1), AUTHOR: Bruce Orwell and John Lippman]
(http://wsj.com/)

WHEN MOVIES BECOME 'PRODUCT'
Issue: Media & Society
[Op-ed] When President Clinton ordered the Federal Trade Commission to
study the
marketing of violent media to children, Washington stepped dangerously
close to
an assault on the First Amendment, writes Postrel. While the administration
knows
that "Regulating creativity is bad," it also realizes that "regulating
marketing is O.K." So the recently launched probe of entertainment industries
is designed to look like business regulation, but according to Postrel, "the
real goal is content restriction." She claims that advertisements for violent
media are not deceptive and allow the public to make informed decisions about
whether to view certain types of content or not. The FTC study "sets a
dangerous precedent for both free speech and consumer choice."
[SOURCE: New York Times (A27), AUTHOR: Virginia Postrel, editor of Reason
magazine]
(http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/oped/14post.html)

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)