Communications-related Headlines

Gary Handman (
Mon, 13 Dec 1999 15:42:08 -0800 (PST)

>Issue: Digital Television
>>From News Advisory: December 18 marks the one-year anniversary of the
>release of the so-called Gore Commission report on the future of television.
>The report calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set
>guidelines for the nation's local TV broadcasters as they move to the
>expanded airwaves provided by digital TV technology. Former Senator Bob
>Dole, while Senate Majority leader, put a $70 billion price tag on these new
>public airwaves. Mark Lloyd, coordinator of People for Better TV and
>Executive Director of the Civil Rights Forum on Communications Policy, will
>discuss the Gore Commission Report, the FCC and the coalition's petition to
>require "public interest obligations" of the nation's TV broadcasters at a
>Morning Newsmaker event sponsored by the National Press Club, on Friday,
>December 17. The event will take place at 10:00 a.m. in the Zenger Room of
>the Press Club, 14th & F Street, NW.
>[SOURCE: People for Better Television]
>Issue: Old Media vs. New Media
>Wall Street analysts say it's not enough to just sell newspapers or movies
>and that media companies who want to survive in the 21st century must
>embrace "omni-media". A major media industry conference this week
>highlighted the traditional media's need to adjust to a computerized era for
>delivering information. PaineWebber analyst Leland Westerfield said "It's
>finding an audience by knowing their interests. It's branding and using
>brands to integrate into interactive media like the Internet, TV and
>magazines." Harold McGraw, McGraw-Hill's chairman and chief executive
>officer, said, "It's a very different environment now and we are looking at
>different partners and different types of penetration. If you don't do that,
>you'll be shut out of markets." The Washington Post is a traditional media
>company that is getting involved in the different areas opened up by
>the Internet or digital technology. At the conference President and Chief
>Operating Officer Alan Spoon outlined Internet services and broadcasting
>outlets the company has branched into besides print.
>[SOURCE: San Jose Mercury, AUTHOR: Steve James - Reuters]

Issue: Diversity
Despite the fact that the networks have said they need to do a better job
with diversity -- the hearings to improve relations between the NAACP and
the major broadcast networks did not go over so well in Los Angeles
yesterday. NAACP President Kweisi Mfume criticized ABC, NBC and Fox for not
sending the presidents of their respective networks to the hearing. Those
same three networks sent the heads of their standards and practices
departments in their place. In a response to those absences, the NAACP
rearranged its conference schedule and gave praise and more time to CBS
Television President and CEO Leslie Moonves, the only network chief who
attended. NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa and ABC TV Network President
Pat Fili-Krushel cited scheduling conflicts as the reason they couldn't
attend. Mfume said the NAACP would try to work with the networks on
increasing the number of minorities both in front of and behind the camera
but is also planning to hold a boycott for the January and February sweeps.
He has not said which networks they would boycott. The NAACP has also
requested information from the four major networks on their programming and
hiring practices to be turned in at the end of December.
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, (B15), AUTHOR: Joe Flint]
See also:
Representatives from three of four networks walked out of a NAACP-sponsored
hearing on diversity in broadcasting yesterday. Vice presidents from Fox,
NBC and ABC arrived as Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association
of Colored People, regretted their absence to the audience. After a 2 1/2
hour wait, they walked out and held their own impromptu press conference.
Only CBS President Leslie Moonves addressed the audience. In a 20 minute
speech he cited the presence of minority characters in 17 CBS prime-time
series. The panel spent 40 minutes questioning Moonves, then heard from
minority actors about their experiences. It was at this point that the other
network executives left. The prepared statements of the executives are
reported to be similar in nature to Moonves, though the executives also
planned to speak on their own initiatives -- such as ABC's participation in
Prism, a fund that helps minorities acquire media properties. Mfume
confessed to being "befuddled" when he heard, belatedly, of the executives'
departure. The hearings are the latest development of minority criticism of
the networks' fall line-up. Declared a "virtual whitewash" earlier this
fall, the networks have worked under strained conditions with the NAACP and
other minority groups to address criticisms of minority representation in
front of and behind the camera. Mfume promised a "sustained, focused and
continuous consumer action" against the networks if improvements are not
[SOURCE: The Washington Post, pg C1 AUTHOR: Sharon Waxman]

Issue: Satellite
>From Press Release: President Clinton today signed the Satellite Home
Viewers Act, a bill approved by Congress to allow satellite TV companies to
offer local broadcast network channels. With a final stroke of the
presidential pen, millions of consumers will soon be able to get local TV
channels via satellite for the first time, if satellite companies follow
through on their promises. In the hours immediately following the
president's signature, the nation's major satellite TV companies DirecTV and
EchoStar are planning to start providing local channels to major
metropolitan markets across the country. Over the next year, satellite
providers say they expect to be able to offer local channels to up to 50
million homes, or about half of the nation's television households. This
development could signal a significant change for consumers who desire more
choice and lower prices for their TV-viewing needs. Cable television has
long dominated the TV provider market, but the new law could help satellite
TV compete. The law comes amid complaints among cable subscribers about
rates and service. For overall satisfaction, cable finished a clear second
to satellite in a national survey of 1,900 cable-TV and satellite-TV
subscribers conducted by Consumer Reports magazine and published in its
December issue. Gene Kimmelman, co-director of Consumers Union's Washington
D.C. office, says he hopes the new satellite law will improve competition
between cable and satellite, but he says much more needs to be done. "The
law will definitely help satellite companies offer local TV channels to dish
owners in the biggest cities, but it fails to ensure that these channels
will still be available to them six months from now. It also fails to create
real opportunities for a satellite company to offer the stations to a much
broader segment of the public. We hope that Congress will review the impact
of this law after six months to determine whether adequate competition to
cable companies is developing. Consumers who make a major investment in a
satellite dish should be able to count on getting their local broadcast
stations for as long as they want them."
[SOURCE: Consumers Union]

Issue: Internet/TV
As impressive as ZDTV's viewership is, it is too small to warrant a Nielsen
rating. Only about 400 cable systems carry the channel, with two satellite
services - DirecTV and Dish - accounting for about half of the 14 million
households that can access it. Figures from researcher Paul Kagan
Associates show ZDTV's subscriber growth rate - 332% from August 1998 to
August 1999 - makes it the fastest-growing cable network. ZDTV, launched
in May 1998, was jointly owner by Ziff-Davis and Vulcan Ventures,
controlled by billionaire Paul Allen. Recently, Vulcan bought out
Ziff-Davis. ZDTV, the only 24-hour national cable channel devoted
exclusively to computers and the Internet, targets average people who are
looking for help and information about computers and the Internet with
shows such as Call for Help, The Screen Savers, ZDTV News, Computer
Shopper, Fresh Gear, Internet Tonight, Silicon Spin and The Money Machine.
[SOURCE: USA Today (3D), AUTHOR: Dennis Hunt]

Issue: Ownership
[Op-ed] There are evil opposites at work in the way our information media
are organizing themselves: consolidation and fragmentation. In it's most
extreme form, fragmentation has made the control of information so diffuse
that nobody is in charge. "Anyone who can afford a secondhand computer and
an Internet connection is empowered to become the next Matt Drudge, and
there are few penalties for being irresponsible." On the other hand, the
high cost of competition is driving media companies to seek economies of
scale via mergers, partnerships and content-sharing arrangements. Yet there
is a bright side to these two trends in that the anarchy of the Internet
gives everyone a chance to have their viewpoint heard. Good can also come
from concentration, "if the Washington Post-NBC combination can put a brand
name on news reporting that is associated with truth and objectivity, we'll
all benefit. If the brand is managed in a way that symbolizes
sensationalism and sleazy entertainment, we'll know that, too." The middle
ground might be somewhere between information monopoly and information
anarchy. "As our media systems reinvent themselves, we should stay focused
on the goal of accountability."
[SOURCE: USA Today (29A), AUTHOR:Philip Meyer holds the Knight Chair in
Journalism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is also a
consultant for USA TODAY and member of the newspaper's board of

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

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