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More media is not better media by Bill Baker

staff | December 18th, 2006

Bill Baker’s Weekly Column for Monday, December 18, 2006

More media is not better media

Next year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (as reported in USA Today), Americans will spend nearly half of their lives consuming media.

The paper reports that, according to the Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007, ?Americans will spend 3,518 hours with their beloved media, including 1,555 in front of the TV.” This compares to the 3,333 hours the average American spent with the media at the beginning of the decade (including 1,467 spent watching TV in 2000).

The intelligence comes from media research company Veronis Suhler Stevenson, which collaborated on collecting data for the abstract. US Today quotes Leo Kivijarv, vice president of research at PQ Media, which worked with Veronis Shuler Stevenson in its research, as saying: that ?people want to have — and almost need to have — information and entertainment at their fingertips now, 24 hours a day.”

Inevitably, as the media come to be integral to more and more aspects of our daily lives ?- from business to education to social and even familial interaction ?- television, radio, the Internet and other forms of electronic media are going to have increased influence on our behaviors, our outlooks and our ideals.

With this in mind, we might read with interest an essay by a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Peter R. Kann, the chairman of Dow Jones, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal last week. In The Media Is in Need of Some Mending, Kann looks at ?10 current trends in the mass media that ought to disturb us.”

Among the troubling tendencies in Kann’s list are ‘the blurring of the lines between journalism and entertainment?; ‘the blending of news and advertising, sponsorships and other commercial relationships?; ‘the growing media fascination with the bizarre, the perverse and the pathological?; and ‘the media’s short attention span.”

Most media observers and critics — and surely a sizable majority of the public ?- are already quite aware of some of these trends and turn their attention to individual issues on a regular basis. But Kann’s codification of this series of problems in one place helps us think about the entire panorama of the media, and what appears to be systemic shortcomings in the way we are producing and consuming media in America today.

As the Census Bureau study points out, with each passing day we are spending more time with media. And, collaterally, new media forms and venues are coming online all the time. Indeed, it seems that the efforts of media purveyors — be they content creators, distribution networks, or technology developers ?- is to promote an ever-expanding universe of options.

But, just as with many things in life, more media is not necessarily better media.

One could easily argue that we have more than enough outlets to accommodate our societal needs at the moment. What cannot be readily argued is that the quality of content is improving on a par with the growth in distribution channels. In fact, as Kann suggests, the media is beset by issues that may be directly related to the exponential increase in the quantity of media available to us, and the competition that the new wealth of choices engenders.

The short attention span, the encroachment of commercialization on news and information programming, the blurring of lines, and the dominance of spectacle and sensationalism are all symptoms of an environment that has become hyper-competitive.

As the FCC once again considers easing ownership rules, we should recall that one of the big arguments being made less media regulation is that it would allow consumers more choices. But is more choice what American media needs right now? Or is it time to start paying more intention to the nature of the content that fills up those many hours we devote to our ?beloved media.”?

At a time when the media seem to be increasingly subordinate to commercialism, materialism and the profit motive, a final note in the USA Today article cited above should not be overlooked.

The same Census report that charted the steady rise in American media use, also looked at a wide range of issues defining American life today. The article noted one fascinating statistic about college students:

“The majority (79%) of freshmen in 1970 had a personal objective of ?developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” By 2005, 75% said their primary objective was ?being very well off financially.”?

A seismic philosophical shift. My question is: is our media simply reflecting that reality? Or is the reality a reflection of our media?

Media Briefing for Friday, December 15, 2006

staff | December 15th, 2006

Media Briefing for Friday, December 15, 2006

The FCC hearing in Nashville, Tennessee on Monday on the issue of media consolidation drew many top country and western artists, and had star power, according to the local daily newspaper in Music City, as Nashville is known. But it says the forum failed to focus on a major problem: payola. Payola – money paid under the table so music receives play on the radio – was only briefly mentioned, says the Tennessean.

The FCC is being challenged in court by the networks over its stringent enforcement of indecency standards in recent years. C-SPAN will cover the court proceedings, which begin next week, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Americans are spending more and more time with media. A new study shows that in 2007 the average American adult and teenager will spend more than 3,500 hours and more than $900 on media, including TV, radio, the internet, video games, and those old standbys, books, magazines and newspapers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the San Francisco Chronicle and Associated Press have reports.

The Associated Press has released a list of YouTube’s top videos for 2006. The list includes comedian Michael Richards’ racial rant and Virginia Senator George Allen’s macaca blunder, and is based not on which videos were most-watched, but rather on their impact, according to LostRemote.com.

The Canadian Radio and Television Commission, Canada’s version of the FCC, has just released a report saying new technology such as the internet, video telephones and iPods, pose only a slight threat to broadcasters. The CRTC says new technology’s impact on traditional broadcasting will be marginal, according to the Globe and Mail of Toronto.

Google is expanding and providing new services, and is seeking advertiser support. Google is reaching out to small and medium sized companies for advertising, not just major businesses, reports the Wall Street Journal. Google is also getting into website registration, to promote its free software products. Google will register websites ending with the suffixes .com, .net, .info and .biz (there are more than 250 suffix endings including ones for all foreign nations such as .ca for Canada and .uk for the United Kingdom and .tt for Trinidad and Tobago). Associated Press reports.

Amid much publicity this fall, Microsoft introduced its Zune, a product directly challenging Apple’s entrenched iPod. How is the Zune doing? Microsoft, known more for tools like Word and Windows than toys, has produced successful “fun” products before such as video games, and is in for the long haul with the Zune, reports the Wall Street Journal.

It’s a time-worn phrase, but the internet is the information superhighway, and the Chicago Tribune takes a “trip” down that superhighway, looking at some history.

All Mozart all the time. Fans of Mozart will want to know about a website that features the music of Mozart, with all of his major works plus information about his compositions. The site, based in Austria, is free and contains 24,000 pages, according to Associated Press.
A website for opera fans, Viva LaVoce, is not accepting any new subscribers. The media information website www.dcrtv.com reports this apparently is more fallout from the impending demise of the classical music format on WGMS 104.1 which is being sold to the owner of the football Washington Redskins. The announcement is on the Viva LaVoce site.

CBS is reviving CBS Records. CBS Records harkened back to the 1930s and its artists included Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith. In 1988 CBS sold CBS Records to Sony, and shortly afterward the CBS Records name was folded and has been mothballed since that time. CBS will use CBS Records for artists on its network TV shows, according to the Associated Press. CBS is doing so with an eye toward the internet age, says the Los Angeles Times.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN will be making some “house calls’ at CBS during 2007. He will be contributing 10 stories to the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, reports Associated Press.

The FCC has rejected a sweeping challenge to the licenses of 18 Chicago area TV stations. The challenge had come from a progressive internet magazine known as Third Coast Press. The challenge had claimed the stations were negligent in public affairs, children’s programming and hyper-commercialization. Broadcasting & Cable magazine reports.

Primetime television is “losing its religion” with few references to faith, according to the conservative Parents Television Council, the group that orchestrated the outcry over the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, responsible for 99% of the protests sent to the FCC over that incident. The Los Angeles Times reports on the PTC’s new criticism.

Instead of standardized background music, travelers at Boston’s Logan Airport will soon be hearing a special radio service featuring adult contemporary music, information and specialized public service announcements. The new service is being called Logan Radio, according to the Associated Press.

Asian American advocates are decrying Rosie O’Donnell’s parody of a Chinese phrase on the daytime TV talk show The View back on December 5, in which she repeats “ching chong” over and over. The on-air performance has made the rounds on the internet, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. She subsequently offered an apology, but warned she probably will parody languages in the future, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. However Unity: Journalists of Color, an umbrella group of minority journalist organizations, is dissatisfied with the apology, reports Associated Press.

After a 31-year run, Inside Albany is leaving the air. The public TV show focusing on politics in New York state was seen across the state on PBS stations, and was seen in the New York City metropolitan area on Thirteen/WNET. Producer David Hepp blames the changing media landscape and lack of resources, reports Associated Press.

Media Briefing for Thursday, December 14, 2006

staff | December 14th, 2006

Media Briefing for Thursday, December 14, 2006

A CNN report on racism in the Texas town of Vidor aired during the Paula Zahn Now program, in her special series “Skin-Deep: Racism In America.” But viewers in Vidor and the area of Southeast Texas served by Time Warner cable could not see it. Those watching CNN in that area saw their screens go dark, and remain dark for 5 minutes, while the report aired, reports the <a href=http://www.zwire.com/site/index. Beaumont, Texas Enterprise. The Under The News Blogspot wonders if lingering racism might have been involved in the blackout of the report on Vidor, which for many years had a law that blacks had to be off the streets after sundown. This same question is being pondered by the Maynard Institute. The cable company says it was a simple engineering glitch, nothing else.

C-SPAN has received court approval to televise the court proceedings in March on the networks’ challenge to the FCC’s indecency crackdown. Broadcasting & Cable reports. C-SPAN has offered to allow the major networks to carry the proceedings from the C-SPAN feed, but so far no networks have taken C-SPAN up on the offer, says Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

With the FCC’s current indecency crackdown, NBC is arguing that the FCC is violating its own rules, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, The Fox network is arguing that the FCC indecency crackdown amounts of censorship. Broadcasting & Cable magazine has the story.

With the dramatic rise of the internet in recent years, the traditional media, including the traditional TV networks, are doing well in involving themselves in the worldwide web, according to the New York Post.

There is a staggering number of blogs worldwide: 100 million. Now there is a report that the number of blogs will level off in 2007, according to Associated Press.

Philips Electronics of Los Angeles has developed a new device it says will help websites and online file sharing networks filter out unauthorized copyrighted video files. Associated Press reports.

The second wave of the Internet Revolution is upon us, but is the United States ready? The answer is a resounding no, and the U.S. is in danger of losing its premier position in the cyber world, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Earlier this week a report indicated that sales of Apple’s iTunes dropped by a whopping 65%, but now a new study challenges that report as not true, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, Apple is creating an iPhone that will offer music, among other things, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The Mercury News also offers possibilities on how the iPhone would enter the market.

A new free phone service is being offered by a Palo Alto, California startup company, Jaxtr, according to Venture Beat.

Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard have agreed to a major joint marketing effort in which the two giant companies will cooperate closely. It is a 3-year $300 million agreement, according to the Seattle Times.

Next year, there will be a greater increase in spending on TV advertising, than on internet advertising, while the news for radio and local newspapers is not good, reports Media Daily News. Meanwhile for 2006, ad spending on cable TV is up 29% while spending on broadcast TV is down 17%, according to Media Daily News. At the same time, baby boomers feel they are being neglected with TV ads being aimed at younger people, not them, according to studies cited by Media Daily News.

The Television Bureau of Advertising, which represents broadcasters, says the percentage of viewers receiving TV by satellite increased from 21% in November 2005 to 24.5% this past November, while the number receiving TV via cable was down, but others are disputing this report, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

A rally was held in Madison, Wisconsin to protest a decision by Clear Channel Communications to change the format of its FM station there at 92.1, and drop liberal talk for the Fox Sports Network format. But a Clear Channel official says that advertisers are avoiding the station because of its liberal talk format, according to Associated Press.

The company that owns WJLA channel 7, ABC in Washington, and cable’s NewsChannel 8 in the Washington area, is starting a newspaper next month. Originally it was to have been called Capitol Leader but now will have the name Politico, and it will be overseen by two former top Washington Post reporters. The New York Times reports.

Senator Barack Obama has been a darling of the media, but as is the case with anyone built up by the media, some in the media then proceed to go on the attack. Now, right wing bloggers are trying to tie Obama to an indicted fundraiser, even though Obama did nothing wrong, reports the Washington Post. Just one day earlier Obama was anointed politics’ new rock star by the Washington Post.

Two journalists in South Florida were fired after it was learned that they had been paid to appear on the U.S. government funded anti-Fidel Castro TV Mart?. Later, they were reinstated, and the controversy lays bare the culture clash between the U.S. view and the Latin American view of journalists and their roles, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Radio Mart? broadcasts at 1180 on the AM dial with a high powered transmitter in the Florida Keys aimed at Cuba, presenting anti-Castro news and information. But it is blocked in Havana itself by a high powered Cuban government station on the same channel, 1180, though Radio Marti can be heard in parts of Cuba further away from Havana. TV Mart? is seen by hardly anyone in Cuba. Yet the Radio and TV Mart? project continues to receive millions of dollars a year from the U.S. government to operate. Is it worth it, asks the Chicago Tribune.

Public radio stations are dropping classical music and jazz for news and talk. Examples include Connecticut Public Radio and WETA-FM 90.9 Washington D.C. Chicago’s public FM station WBEZ 91.5 is also changing format next month, with a much greater diet of talk and news, and less music, but some music survives, reports the Chicago Tribune.

In Thailand, a huge fine imposed on a commercial TV broadcaster has been upheld in court, and if it ultimately stands, the broadcaster, iTV, will be forced to shut down, according to the New York Times.

Viewers in Belgium were shocked by a fake news report on a Belgian public TV station that the Dutch-speaking portion of Belgium had seceded from the country. The fake news report was aimed at increasing interest in elections being held a few months from now, reports Reuters.

Observers say the decision will Americanize TV in Europe. The European Union is relaxing its rules on TV advertising, allowing brand products to be advertised, and more frequent ad breaks, reports Reuters.

Anyone interested in news about Iraq will want to know about a new site IraqSlogger.com that has been started by former CNN chief Eason Jordan, reports Lost Remote.com

Illegal immigrants and border security continue to be a big issue in Texas, among other places, firing up conservative talk radio, and a Texas radio talk show host, Edd Hendee of KSEV 700 Houston, has offered to donate an airplane to Texas sheriffs so they can patrol the border more effectively, reports KWTX channel 10 Waco News.

Entertainment mogul David Geffen has offered $2 billion cash for the Los Angeles Times, but the owners of the paper, Tribune Co., declined to reject or accept the offer, while they continue to try to sell the entire Tribune Co. as a single entity, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Bird-supportive groups are proposing the installation of bird-friendly lights on broadcast and communications towers. The FCC currently is seeking public comment on the issue. On a single night more than 3,000 birds were killed when they hit a tower for a Nashville TV station, reports the Tennessean.

Media Briefing for Wednesday, December 13, 2006

staff | December 13th, 2006

Media Briefing for Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Consolidation of radio station ownership has brought a decline in localism and diversity, reports a new study being released today. The Los Angeles Times reports.

The general manager of WKRN-TV channel 2 Nashville, Tennessee where the FCC held a hearing Monday on consolidation of media ownership, says he was surprised at the intensity of opposition to consolidation shown by citizens who spoke. G.M. Mike Sechrist reports this in his WKRN channel 2 Nashville blog.

On the issue of radio and TV consolidation, a group of small broadcasting companies is asking the FCC for the same more lenient consolidation rules that govern major markets. TV Newsday reports.

The subject of radio station consolidation brought an on-air clash in Nashville between a Clear Channel Communications radio host and the wife of Country Hall Of Fame singer George Jones, reports, the Tennessean of Nashville.

Despite recent concerns raised about TV advertising contributing to childhood obesity, the number of ads aimed at children is continuing at the same level, according to sales executives, though they say the advertisers are policing themselves. Media Week reports.

The art of making cheese in Wisconsin is the subject of a documentary being presented Sunday on Chicago’s PBS station WTTW channel 11, It is entitled Living On The Wedge, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The TV networks, led by Fox, are expected to file comments in court this week opposing the FCC’s current crackdown on indecency, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine,

A fundamentalist Christian video game is being criticized as one that glorifies violence against non-Christians. Liberal groups are calling on Walmart to withdraw it from its shelves, but the makers of the game are defending it, reports the Associated Press.

MIT has developed a new software program that allows friends to know their locations, and at the same time protecting the information so big brother does not know, according to the Boston Globe.

IBM and Yahoo are teaming up to challenge Google, reports Associated Press.

Sales of Apple’s iTunes took a 65% dive in the first half of this year, according to a just-released report, says Seattle Times.

Smilebox of Washington state is getting together with Hallmark Cards to offer a new service in which people can insert digital photographs into online postcards, and also add music beds, according to the Seattle Times.

NBC Dateline‘s Perverted Justice episodes are the most highly rated for the show. Dateline cooperates with a citizen group known as Perverted Justice to lure adults via the web to houses, to engage in sex with underaged children. In one recent taping a man who came to a house committed suicide. Critics say the show is entrapment, and defenders say it is providing a great service, capturing adults who are trying to have sex with children, reports the New York Times.

A photographer working for Associated Press in Iraq has been shot to death while having his automobile repaired, according to AP

The ratings for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric are down, but her predecessor Bob Schieffer and two other journalists are urging patience, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Chandler family which sold the Los Angeles Times properties to the Chicago Tribune several years ago, is unhappy with the Tribune’s management and is trying to raise the money to buy at least part of the Tribune Company, reports the New York Times. The Times says that Tribune has received no offers or interest since being put up for sale, except for Gannett.

In Philadelphia, where a local group came forward to buy the Inquirer and Daily News this year, a tentative contract agreement has been reached with the largest union there. A union official describes the pact as a disappointing, giveback agreement, according to the Associated Press.

Clear Channel Communications dropped liberal talk on its 50,000 watt clear channel station in Cincinnati, Ohio WCKY 1530, for an all sports format, and there was hardly a ripple of comment. But when Clear Channel did the same thing on a radio station in liberal Madison, Wisconsin, there was a major backlash, reports the Associated Press.

In Washington, DC, the demise of classical music on WGMS 104.1 is imminent, while the other station that had offered classical music, public WETA-FM 90.9, dropped it in February 2005, reports the Washington Post. The Post recalls the WETA-FM switch also brought a strong backlash.

A detective from Oregon has contacted the PBS show History Detectives for help in determining if a rare typewriter at Indiana University once belonged to World War II reporter Ernie Pyle. Associated Press reports.

Bob Flowers, the chairman of the board of Seattle PBS station KCTS channel 9, has been named to the national PBS board, reports the Seattle Times.

The “buck stops here” was the famous phrase of Harry Truman. Now, Emmis Communications chief executive Jeff Smulyan has cut his pay from more than $800,000 a year to $1, so cutbacks could be achieved, and he reports there will be few cuts of personnel at his company, according to Associated Press. The Emmis FM stations in New York City are WQHT 97.1, WRKS 98.7 and WQCD 101.9. Smulyan launched the first local all-sports radio station in 1987, New York City’s WFAN.

A joke by Conan O’Brien led to 3,000,000 hits on the web. The joke involved a manatee, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Media Briefing for Tuesday, December 12, 2006

staff | December 12th, 2006

Media Briefing for Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some 400 people turned out at an FCC hearing in Nashville, Tennessee Monday, students, journalists, concerned citizens and media managers. Most of them were there to protest the negative effects of consolidation of ownership of radio and TV stations and other media. Songwriters from Nashville complained that consolidation has severely damaged their ability to get their songs on the air. The FCC has changed the rules already, to allow one company to own up to 8 radio stations in a market, and up to 2 TV stations, and wants to relax the rules even further. The Tennessean of Nashville reports.

Top country and western songwriters and artists based in Music City blasted consolidation, reports the Hollywood Reporter.

“Open up the airwaves” was the message from most speakers, reports Associated Press.

Local media and political representatives also spoke at the hearing, one of six the FCC is holding nationwide on the issue of consolidation, reports the Tennessean.

Some of the comments were captured by and published in the Tennessean.

What are the current rules on ownership of radio and TV stations, and what is being proposed? The answers are provided in a rundown in the Tennessean.

Meanwhile, a New York state congressman is calling for an investigation into what he says was a supression of studies and information related to the issue of consolidation. U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, an Ulster County Democrat, is demanding a formal probe, according to Associated Press and WNBF 1290 Binghamton, New York

The owner of the football Redskins is planning to silence the Washington, D.C. area’s only classical music radio station. The Washington Post looks at why, and the implications.

Among the big 3 network early evening newscasts, people of color prefer ABC News with Charles Gibson, while NBC Nightly News is last among blacks, according to an analysis of the ratings reported by the Maynard Institute.

While other financial cable networks are struggling, CNBC has struck gold, according to Newsweek magazine.
Political campaign ads brought in $2.25 billion for the nation’s television stations this past election season, but are the ads good for the U.S. political system? No, and there is a better alternative, says the Baltimore Sun.

The major networks are trying to figure out how, in the internet age, to get their shows on the internet, and do so profitably. As the year 2007 begins the networks have installed top executives to make it happen, reports Associated Press.

The rise of the citizen photojournalist, with citizens taking video of news events, and TV stations and networks then using the video, may portend the eventual end of the professional photojournalist, according to the Center for Citizen Media blog.

In one municipality in Ontario – Vaughan – patrons of the city’s 8 libraries may download TV shows and videos from home or anywhere in the world, and libraries all across Canada are embracing cyber technology, meaning patrons no longer have to go to the library in person, reports the Globe and Mail of Toronto.

“Google 2.0: from Search Engine to Media Powerhouse” – is a take on Google’s rise, presented by the San Jose Mercury News.

Searching for a specific moment in a lengthy video can be frustrating. Now, a Woburn, Massachusetts firm, Gotuit Media Corporation, has come up with a device that indexes on-line video. The software generates moment-by-moment indexes of movies and videos, reports the Boston Globe.

The Netherlands has pulled the plug on free analog TV and gone all-digital, the first nation to do so. The U.S. will do the same in a little more than 2 years, in early 2009. Associated Press reports. Few Dutch TV viewers noticed the switchover, because most receive their stations via cable television, says the
Globe and Mail of Toronto.

An Azerbaijan independent TV station that was taken off by the government earlier this year, has returned to the air, but the government says it will have to undergo a license renewal proceeding next year. The shutdown of the station this year resulted in strong criticism in the United States and Europe, according to Associated Press.

NBC, CBS and Fox are working to come up with a website that would serve as a destination for their shows. The service would compete with YouTube, reports TV Week.

Keith Olbermann’s political commentary and sarcasm are helping boost MSNBC’s ratings, reports the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

In the wake of the meltdown for comedian Michael Richards after he was captured during a standup routine using the “n” word in screaming at some heckling audience members, comedians are cleaning up their acts. Shock comedy shows such as South Park and shock humor from standup comedians have become the rule more than the exception in recent years, but that is changing dramatically, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Los Angeles public FM radio station KCRW 89.9 is ending its annual Hanukkah show. KCRW is available nationally online. The Los Angeles Times reports. XM satellite radio is offering a 24-hour-a-day Hanukkah music station, which was reported earlier, and now Associated Press has a major story.

Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby are once again getting airplay on the FM radio dial. There are now 399 radio stations in the United States playing all-Christmas music, reports Associated Press.

This week it was reported that a Key West low power station would go nationwide in offering a gay TV service. The Miami Herald is offering a major story looking at the station, WGAY-TV, and other national gay channels.

Media Briefing for Monday, December 11, 2006

staff | December 11th, 2006

The FCC is holding a formal public hearing at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee today and tonight on the issue of media consolidation and the local daily newspaper The Tennessean frames the issue as one about free expression. The Tennessean further says the hearing is one pitting David vs. Goliath.

The Seattle Times says FCC chairman Kevin Martin is trying to get another commissioner to compromise himself, by having him vote on the AT&T/BellSouth merger now before the FCC. Here is the Seattle Times editorial.

Eleanor Schano was a pioneer in television, rising from a being “weather girl” in the 1950s to television anchor, to the host of LifeQuest on Pittsburgh’s PBS station WQED channel 13, a program for seniors. At one point when a serious news position opened, she was told not to bother to apply, since there were already 28 men who had applied. Her life story and the difficulties of being a woman in television, are told in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

TV Land’s top 100 all-time quotes from television shows includes 96 from men and just 4 from women, so the Boston Herald offers its top 10 quotes from women.

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell says that as good as the Post’s columnists and opinion writers are, there is a strong need for columnists who are women and who are minorities. She says women and minorities want to see themselves represented. She makes the comments in her ombudsman column in the Washington Post.

When it comes to color, CBS News pales, according to the Saint Petersburg Times, which says CBS News has only one black television news anchor left.
With TV inundated with what critics say is a staggering number of commercials these days, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams conducted a test last week: a newscast with only a single sponsor, and with a greatly reduced spot load. More than 4,000 viewers sent email messages thanking NBC, according to USA Today.

Former FCC chairman Newton Minow, who famously described television as a “vast wasteland” in the 1960s, says his daughter goes to Harvard Law School, and when the students in her class were asked how many of them read print newspapers, not one hand went up. The students all said they read online to keep informed, Minow says in a piece on newspapers in a time of change, in the Chicago Tribune.

Sometimes political talk radio is better off when the opposition is in power, so it can have plenty to criticize. The Washington Post is asking whether liberal Air America is in the “throes of victory.”

Clear Channel is introducing a new menu of specialized radio formats, including ones aimed at gays and at auto racing enthusiasts, according to Market Watch.

A low power TV station in Key West, Florida, WGAY, is launching a national gay TV service, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Washington is awash in leaks. The leaks are providing the public with information on what is really going on in the federal government, behind the official statements, says Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post.

As the internet becomes more dominant, more are seeing it as a major news source. Now, in Baltimore, a veteran newspaper reporter and a public radio host are teaming to start an online news service, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Google is helping revitalize the sales of radio advertising. The Washington Post reports Google is taking the complications out of buying radio ads, making it much easier for small businesses to get on radio.

Bands and musicians have always had a hard time getting exposure because they needed to get record companies to accept them and their music. This often meant the artists had to compromise to accommodate a mainstream audience. But now, as with so much else, the internet is changing everything, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Things look far less rosy for satellite radio than they did one year ago. The Wall Street Journal says “what a difference a year makes.”

YouTube allows viewers to comment on video clips, but sometimes the comments can be unpleasant, so to be a little kinder, YouTube is retaining the comments, but placing them in a separate section, says the New York Times.

Telephone giant Verizon is offering television service, and cable TV giants like Comcast and Cablevision are offering phone service. It’s a wiring war among giants, reports the New York Times. Phone plus cable plus internet plus cell phone equals fierce competition, says the Boston Globe which gives its take on Comcast entering the phone business and Verizon entering TV.

Would the advertiser lines “Set It and Forget It” or “Leave The Driving To Us” apply to a new service allowing automatic buys and sells on the stock market by investors? Reuters is offering a new service that, among other things, makes automatic buying and selling on the stock market, tied directly to developing news events, reports the New York Times.

The phenomena of MySpace and YouTube and their strong popularity among teens and young adults are examined in a major story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Google’s online AskJeeves search engine to answer questions from the public is gone. So now the Chicago Tribune examines where on the web people can go to find answers to questions.

Discovery Communications says it is now providing videos and educational materials to 70,000 schools. Now, Discovery Communications has cut 84 positions, leaving it with 200 employees, reports the Washington Post.

As reported last week, PBS has gotten together with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in a fund-raising promotion. The has this story on the new coffee blend known as PBS Blend.

FCC Plays Nashville – By Bill Baker

staff | December 11th, 2006

FCC Plays Nashville
by Bill Baker

The FCC road show pulls into Nashville today as the commission holds the second of its planned series of public hearings designed to involve the public in the 2006 Quadrennial Broadcast Media Ownership Review as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The issue of media ownership continues to generate intense controversy, as it has for the past several decades. The central question is whether broadcast companies should be bound by limits on the number of stations they can own in a particular market and the number of people they reach with their programming.

The origins of the debate date back to the days when there were only three big networks, plus public television and a few small local broadcasters. In those days, the limits on ownership ensured that no one company monopolized the public airwaves. In the interest of free speech and a competitive marketplace of ideas, it was deemed essential that Americans have the opportunity to choose among sources of television and radio.

Since the mid-1990s, a laissez-faire sensibility has come to guide federal regulatory policy with regard to telecommunications. The deregulatory philosophy has complemented the emergence of new technologies, which have dramatically expanded the media choices available to Americans, especially those with access to cable and satellite services.

While the so-called 500-channel universe would seem, at first glance, to offer significantly more choice than the what was available in the previous era, the diversity among ownership is much narrower, as many corporations own multiple channels streams. Many critics believe that, because of this, deregulation has given rise to a degradation of quality and a narrowing of the marketplace of ideas. For example, some argue that profit-conscious corporate parents have been downsizing their stations? news staffs and consolidating newsrooms across their holdings, leading to a reduction in the quality of news reporting.

Back in 2003, under then chairman Michael Powell, the FCC attempted to remove a raft of regulations still on the books. However, a national grassroots campaign sued to stop the policy. In the decision, Prometheus vs. The Federal Communications Commission, the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals held the FCC’s hand.

The outlook for the future remains unclear as factions on both sides of the fence, and within the FCC itself, promote their vision of the present and future of media regulation.

Saying that, rarely do we do as good a job as you do,” “the FCC’s Robert McDowell told Wall Street analysts last week that ‘there is still plenty of regulatory underbrush to be cleared.”

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has written a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin urging him to delay any revision of media ownership rules until after the FCC finishes its review of the relationship between local ownership of media outlets and the content those outlets provide. “The FCC must first establish that there are sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure that broadcasters are serving their local communities before considering any changes to the ownership rules,” the senators — all members of the Senate Commerce Committee — wrote.

I would add that the current regulatory environment has created an unlevel playing field. The FCC regulates only a small percentage of all channel owners — namely, the over-air-broadcasters. The regulations need to be rationalized for all content providers across all distribution platforms — broadcast, cable, satellite, IP, etc — for them to be meaningful.

But local community service, like the kind that public television provides, is clearly a priority. When I was a young man growing up in Cleveland and starting my career in radio, there were 25 radio stations and 25 owners. In those days, when it rained in Cleveland, every one of those station owners got wet. Today, when it rains in Cleveland, no station owners get wet. None of them live in Cleveland.

It’s an issue that demands attention. A generic, one-size-fits-all media is not in the public interest and we can hope that safeguards remain in place to ensure that the public airwaves continue to offer relevant, responsive programming to America’s diverse communities.

Public opinion can and should play an important role in the future of shape of American media. As the FCC continues to solicit feedback in communities across the nation, we should take great interest in hearing what ordinary citizens think about media ownership, federal communications regulation and the role of the media in our lives today.

Media Briefing for Friday, December 8, 2006

staff | December 8th, 2006

WGBH channel 2 Boston president Henry Becton Jr. who oversaw the growth of WGBH into a national programming production powerhouse, is stepping down, and is being replaced by Jonathan C. Abbott, reports the Boston Globe. Henry Becton tells the Boston Herald that he intends to stay on as a parttime senior editorial advisor.

Is PBS about to give Starbucks a run for its money? In cooperation with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, PBS has begun offering PBS Blend coffee, according to Media Post The Green Mountain Coffee Roasters website has details. Even though conservatives for decades have pushed PBS to find private funding and not rely on government funding, the conservative Boston Herald says WGBH is bring criticized for the commercialization of public TV in this fund-raising coffee venture. The Herald in its headline asks if the coffee deal is “grounds for censure.”

Washington D.C. apparently will soon be losing its last all-classical music radio station. The owner of the football Washington Redskins is buying WGMS 104.1 and will turn it into an all-sports station, according to the Washington Post.

Great tragedy visited Jonestown in the northern South American nation of Guyana in November 1978. Nine hundred and nine followers of a religious cult committed suicide. A documentary has been created on the life of the Rev. Jim Jones, who led the cult, and who directed his followers to take their own lives by taking a poison drink. The Baltimore Sun reports the documentary was made for the PBS series American Experience.

Garrison Keillor of NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion is ushering New Year’s on a special on PBS television. AP reports.

The FCC is holding another of its public hearings on proposals to further ease ownership rules and allow greater media consolidation. The hearing is Monday at the campus of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. There is detailed information about the issue at the official FCC website. Meanwhile, the Seattle Times concludes after last week’s non-official forum on media consolidation, that foes of consolidation make wonderful bedfellows.

Meanwhile, in the AT&T – BellSouth merger case now before the FCC, freepress.net is saying that FCC chairman Kevin Martin may be giving the most massive giveway to corporations, at the expense of the public interest.

XM and Sirius satellite radio services each offer hundreds of channels. Now, executives of Sirius are speaking openly about the positive effects of a possible merger of the two, reports the Washington Post.

Google has come up with new software that helps radio stations sell advertising. Google’s goal is to make money beyond the web, according to Bloomberg News.

Nielsen ratings will be offering minute-by-minute ratings for television. The Nielsen service, which begins April 24, 2007, will also provide data on DVRs and playback, according to Media Week. At the same time Media Daily News says Madison Avenue has lost its bid to have ratings for specific TV ads.

Civil rights groups are saying that progress is being made in the visibility of minorities on network TV, but more remains to be done. Associated Press reports.

FreePress.org is reporting that jazz and black entertainment gained their first conduit with the advent of the phonograph record, and then radio. Those in the New York may remember the 1966 sign-on of all-black jazz WLIB-FM 107.5, but the radio tradition goes back decades before that, reports FreePress.org

Fully one-third of the journalists in jail for their work around the world had their work published on the Internet, according to a new study. The study says authoritarian governments are determined to crack down on and control the Internet in their countries, according to the Associated Press.

Comedian George Carlin, whose so-called “Seven dirty words” on a 1970s radio broadcast resulted in the FCC adoption of indecency rules, is warning against group-think, in an interview in the Miami Herald.

While computers are an major part of the lives of both baby boomers and teenagers, there is one big age divide on the web. The Chicago Tribune reports that teenaged users live by instant messaging, while baby boomrs couldn’t care less about IM-ing.

Many video games feature graphic violence. A group is suggesting that parents check their ratings of video games for their children. Entertainment Software Ratings Board says it has distributed public service announcements to 800 broadcast and cable TV stations to promote its ratings, reports the Associated Press. Meanwhile, there is a media guide for parents that offers reviews of TV shows, movies, websites and books, without the soapbox and posturing and moralizing. The guide is offered by San Francisco’s Common Sense Media, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Various health groups are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to patrol health claims made by food companies in their advertisements, reports Advertising Age magazine.

It may seem like Walmart CEO Lee Smith is running for office. It’s because Walmart has hired a P.R. firm to remake its image, in a campaign called “Candidate Walmart.” The Wall Street Journal reports. Meanwhile the New York Times reports Walmart has dismissed its marketing star, and also many of the ad agencies she brought in.

The departing chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, Republican U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, says the news media has been alarmist about global warming. Inhofe says the media have been hyping the idea that human beings are respoonsible for the global warming of recent decades, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The departure of Lloyd Braun from Yahoo signals a change in direction at Yahoo, away from producing costly original video. Associated Press reports.

Hewlett-Packard has agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle lawsuit brought by the California state attorney general. The suit charged unfair business practices in HP’s crusade to unmask the source of leaks from the HP board room to the news media. The AP and New York Times report.

Cable TV rates have shown the smallest increase in years, during the past year. The Wall Street Journal reports this is because of increased competition from satellite and other technology.

Is it because the baby boomers – that big bulge in the overall population – are getting older? While the circulation of traditional newspapers is declining, the circulation of AARP magazine continues to leap upward. This is happening as the nation’s population grows older, according to Media Buyer Planner magazine.

The Philadelphia Inquirer calls it the open-and-shut case that won’t close: the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia policeman and the widely criticized conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is in prison in western Pennsylvania while his conviction is being appealed. This is the 25th anniversary of the policeman’s killing, and the Inquirer story notes that Abu-Jamal was a news reporter for a time with WHYY-FM 90.9 Philadelphia, and also produced a radio series of reports from prison that were to have run on NPR. The project was shelved after an outcry from police and conservative organizations, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, which also gives a <a href=http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/news/local/16195145.htm timeline of the case.

Media Briefing for Thursday, December 7, 2006

staff | December 7th, 2006

Route 66, the great east-west trans-America highway celebrated in movies, on television and in music, is now the subject of a PBS documentary that debuts this month. The Mother Road will debut on many PBS stations on Monday, December 18. The Washington Post reports.

Leaning left? Leaning right? The channel or station or newspaper or magazine does so in taking its cues from the customers. The New York Times reports.

The FCC is defending its indecency crackdown on broadcasters, saying broadcasters have only limited First Amendment protections, and that the V-Chip has proven ineffective, Broadcasting ^ Cable magazine reports. But Hollywood Reporter Washington correspondent Brooks Boliek questions the authority of five unelected FCC commissioners – no matter how intelligent – to impose their indecency standards on the whole nation.

A consortium of 30 group broadcasters has asked the FCC to loosen ownership regulations. They include Clear Channel, Gannett, the major networks, and others, reports Media Week.

The publisher of ColorsNW, aimed at people of color in the Seattle region, says that ethnic media must be kept thriving, because of its great importance to ethnic minorities. He says ethnic media must be kept independent as well, in remarks prepared for a forum on media consolidation held last week at the Seattle downtown public library, reports the Seattle Times.

What’s black and white and not red all over? Media Daily News says that in their advertising and revenue forecasts for 2007, newspapers have guarded optimism.

More than a half century ago, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, television was all the rage, but stations and networks had difficulty getting ads. The surge of ad money into TV was delayed until the mid 1950s. Agencies weren’t yet comfortable with making TV ads. So it is today, apparently. An ad tracking study shows the top 50 advertisers are not yet spending large amounts of money on web ads. The top 50 advertisers actually are spending more on traditional TV, while the growth in web advertising is coming from small and medium-size companies, according to LostRemote.com

Video advertisements are being made for as little as $300 per ad. The fee from a startup company called TurnHere includes the cost of editing, according to LostRemote.com

Sirius Satellite Radio plans to offer TV service for the automobile. Sirius will offer three video channels for television in the car next year, according to Bloomberg News.

The FCC may make it easier for AT&T and Verizon to sell television service, FCC chairman Kevin Martin says. The FCC votes December 20 on allowing the telcoms to sell TV, according to Bloomberg News.

Apple’s iPod has received wide positive coverage, with its exploding popularity. But now, owners’ gripes over breakdowns of iPods are increasing, reports the Wall Street Journal. The iPod competitor, Microsoft’s Zune, is hoping to sell one million of the devices by June, but faces a long road in doing so, says the Seattle Times.

Simply deleting an email does not erase it from your hard drive. However there are programs available that allow you to scrub your hard drive clean, according to the Washington Post.

Even though cellphones have much to offer senior citizens, many seniors are intimidated by the technology, or turned off by the tiny keypad and supersmall screen. The Jitterbug cell phone may be the answer, reports the Hartford Courant.

YouTube.com is not just providing entertainment. Resumes from job-seekers are now being posted on the popular site as well, reports the Wall Street Journal.

CNN reporter Anderson Cooper makes his debut on CBS’s 60 Minutes this Sunday. His segment will be on the whistle-blower who exposed the torture at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to the New York Daily News.> The CBS News.com website welcomes Cooper with a biography.

NBC’s Meet The Press is being inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall Of Fame. Meet The Press is the longest-running program on television, reports Broadcasting & Cable.

The private radio stations in the African nation of Chad are planning a three-day protest of government censorship. The stations are upset about censorship of coverage of unrest in the eastern portion of the nation, according to the Associated Press.>

France 24, a French version of CNN, is now available in parts of the nation, including on some cable systems in the Washington D.C. area. It will offer different perspectives on world events, according to the D.C. Examiner. There are more than 500 kinds of French cheese and more than 360 types of French wine, so why shouldn’t there be one French news channel, asks the Washington Post.

TV icon Dick Clark has sold the original microphone he used when he began American Bandstand, which originated at WFIL-TV channel 6 Philadelphia and was fed nationally on the ABC television network. The mic was just one of a number of items that Clark, a self-described pack rat who has 28,000 square feet of memorabilia from his career, sold off. The microphone, which he started using in 1956, went for $33,000 according to Associated Press.

Bill Proenza is not yet a household name, but by next year at this time, he may well be. He has been named director of the National Hurricane Center, and if there are hurricanes threatening the U.S. next year, he will become a familiar face on news and weather channels, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

In one of its last acts under Republican control, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a measure condemning a French city for naming one of its streets after Mumia Abu Jamal, who is appealing his conviction of murder in the killing of a Philadelphia policeman. Abu Jamal, for a time a public radio news reporter and whose case became a cause celebre, is now in a western Pennsylvania prison, appealing his conviction, according to the Associated Press>

Even in this cyber age, there is still a great deal of money in printed magazines. Primedia today announced it is selling 17 magazines, including Guns & Ammo and Florida Sportsman, for $170 million, reports Reuters.

Media Briefing for Wednesday, December 6, 2006

staff | December 6th, 2006

Unlike the period of the 1996 Telecommunications Act which allowed individual companies to own as many as eight radio stations in a market, and when there was virtually no public debate, there is vigorous discussion now that the FCC is proposing even further relaxation of the rules on ownership of radio and TV stations. Thanks to the 1996 Act, for example, five of the 11 high powered 40-mile radius commercial FM stations in the Hartford-New Haven market are owned by Clear Channel Communications of Texas, and another three of the 11 are owned by CBS Infinity, which also owns Connecticut’s only clear channel 50,000 watt AM station, WTIC 1080. Clear Channel also owns 5 of the 16 full power 50,000 watt FM stations in New York City, while CBS Infinity owns 3 of the 16 FM stations, and both all news AM stations WCBS 880 and WINS 1010, plus all sports WFAN 660. Unlike any other business, such as banks, no new radio channels can be created in Connecticut or New York City, because of the limited spectrum space of radio.

The FCC is holding another forum on the issue of further media consolidation, this coming Monday on the campus of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The three major network affiliates in Nashville will be among those testifying, according to TV Newsday. Meanwhile, North Dakota’s Democratic U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan has asked the FCC to complete its localism proceedings, including more hearings on that issue, before reaching any final decisions about media consolidation, reports Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

The newest member of the FCC says he sees no need to require cable TV systems to sell channels a la carte. FCC commissioner Robert McDowell feels the current system of channels in bundles is fine, according to the Associated Press.>

60 Minutes’ Andy Rooney is the victim of a vicious internet hoax. Rooney says there is a racist commentary being falsely attributed to him, that is being circulated on the internet. He says he has nothing to do with it, according to the Associated Press.

The Metropolitan Opera broadcast is flourishing. The Met will be expanding its live performance broadcasts, according to the Boston Globe.

Public television will be offering a new food series. The program, featuring celebrated chef Todd English, will start in January, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK says it has developed a new system of advertising that is a first in the world. Video ads will be aimed at holders of mobile phone TV receivers, with the ads based on interests, gender and location. NRK has developed the program with a major Swedish wireless company, according to the Associated Press.

The companies that produce cellphones and other technology projects are paying strong attention to women. Women outspend males 3 to 2 in the purchase of technological items for the family, according to the Washington Post, The makers of portable technology devices are touting their music and video features. The Associated Press reports the devices allow people to carry thousands of songs in their pockets.

There is no cancer risk from using cellphones, according to a major study from Denmark. The study tracked 420,000 Danes using cellphones, reports Associated Press. While there may be no cancer risk, the use of technology devices can be hazardous to one’s health in other ways. Some studies have shown the use of cellphones by drivers of automobiles to impair their driving even more than being drunk. Now, the Washington state patrol is blaming a major chain-reaction multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 5, the major artery in the Seattle area, on a minivan driver using his Blackberry to text message. The Seattle Times reports.

Several hundred visitors got a glimpse of the future of video transmission on the Internet. They were in a Chicago ballroom, and were able to view a crystal-clear transmission via Internet2 from New York. Internet2 links colleges and high schools in the United States, according to the report in the Chicago Tribune.

In the cyber world, “spam” refers to unsolicited email featuring advertising messages. The New York Times reports a sharp increase in the number of spam transmissions, which now represent 9 of out of 10 email messages sent on the web.

The popular MySpace.com website is developing technology to block convicted sex offenders from the site, according to the Associated Press.

There’s a new player in Hollywood. Yahoo is seeking the spotlight in Hollywood, according to the Los Angeles Times.

There’s good news for satellite radio. General Motors is increasing the number of vehicles that will be equipped with XM satellite radio receivers, according to the Associated Press. There will be XM receivers in 1.8 million GM vehicles in 2007, reports Reuters. There is also bad news for satellite radio, as sales of receivers for both XM and Sirius are down, according to Media Daily News. Chicago Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal says satellite radio is being forced to face reality, and this may mean a merger of XM and Sirius. Here is his column in the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, in Canada, satellite radio is just getting off the ground, with what the Globe and Mail of Toronto calls the battleground for your dashboard.

Interactive TV is coming to Canada, and Canadians may soon be able to host their own cooking, gardening, and home improvement shows on the websites of the Food Network, HGTV and other channels, according to the Globe and Mail of Toronto.

Is forcing a captive audience to smell something as part of an advertising campaign too much of an intrusion? A “Got Milk?” ad campaign in San Francisco in which pictures of cookies in city bus shelters were accompanied by an odor of cookies, has been pulled after just one day. The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

For the first time in its 37 year history, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams was sponsored by a sole advertiser, Philips, with a much lower amount of time devoited to advertising. The MSNBC.com website reports the response to the Monday evening broadcast was very positive,

An Islamic civil rights group in the U.S. wants a columnist removed from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. The Islamic group is targeting Dennis Prager, who also has a radio show, because of his remarks about the use of the Quran by an Islamic congressman in his swearing-in ceremony, according to the Associated Press.

The head of the investigative unit at ABC television news, Brian Ross, says he got fired from a job early in his career at a local TV station in Iowa because of his coverage of a controversy involving a proposed highway, Ross tells USA Today that he told himself if he could survive this, he would become successful. Now he heads the ABC investigative unit, which among other stories, uncovered the Congressman Mark Foley scandal.

Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly is demanding an apology from Dan Rather for comments that Fox on-air reporters use talking points provided by the government. In his Fox News website column, O’Reilly says he defended Dan Rather in the George W. Bush national guard service story, and endured much criticism for doing so.

Jerry Springer, best known for his “trash” talk TV show, is ending his morning liberal talk radio show. Springer says his schedule has become too busy to continue it, according to Associated Press.

Iran has banned the popular video-sharing website YouTube.com. Dominated by religious archconservatives, Iran has a strong culture of censorship, reports Associated Press. In Canada there is a different form of “censorship.” The public will be unable to see various documentary film and video because of the huge cost of rights fees, reports the Globe and Mail of Toronto, which says the documentaries are headed “back to the vault.”

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