Capital Watch


Advertisers' Demands Hurting Networks?

Ad-supported television may not give viewers what they want, say two economists in a new FCC study. Examining the 1995 fall season, the FCC's Keith Brown and Florida International University's Roberto Cavazos found that advertisers shy away from "darker" network programming, such as news and crime dramas, and are willing to pay a premium for spots during sitcoms. Of the programs in the broadcast sample, seven were newsmagazines, five were police dramas and 38 were sitcoms. The bad news for broadcasters: Viewers appear to prefer programs that portray the darker side of life. By programming for advertisers' preferences rather than viewers', broadcasters provided HBO and other cable programmers an opening to counterprogram in favor of viewers' desires. "The development and rapid spread of cable and satellite television," the authors concluded, "can be attributed at least in part to the market failures inherent in over-the-air, advertiser-supported television."

FCC Upholds WKRK-FM Fine

Infinity's WKRK-FM Detroit was ordered to pony up $27,500 by the FCC for a January 2002 call-in show in which callers were asked to give nicknames for explicit sex acts. The fine was first proposed in April. Commissioner Michael Copps dissented, saying the violation of indecency rules was so blatant that a hearing to revoke WKRK-FM's licenses was warranted.

Public TV's Must-Carry Pitch

Public TV stations should win cable carriage for multicast digital signals, regardless of whether regulators grant that right to commercial outlets, said the Association for Public Television Stations. As the FCC struggles to decide whether to expand stations' must-carry to more than one programming channel, APTS last week distanced its lobbying effort from commercial broadcasters'. Commissioners are trying to decide whether it would be lawful to force cable to give more channels to competitors. Under the law, the FCC has more power to help public stations than it does commercial ones, said APTS. "Public television receives a distinctive statutory treatment that recognizes its unique purpose, means of support and method of operation," the group said in a filing to the FCC. The goal of providing nationwide access to public channels is evident in analog carriage rules, APTS said, because public stations must provide their signals to cable free whereas commercial stations are allowed to negotiate terms of retransmission.

LPTV Seekers Get Three Months To Settle Conflicts

Broadcasters who filed 2,900 "mutually exclusive" applications for low-power TV stations have until March 5 to work out settlements and prevent the licenses from being decided by FCC auction. Mutually exclusive applications are requests for the same channel in a market or for a channel that would overlap with one in an adjacent market. The settlement period gives applicants opportunity to negotiate changes to their coverage areas so both could hold a license or make deals giving one applicant the channel. By settling, winning applicants to get the license free, just as uncontested "singleton" applicants would.

MacBride to lead NAB legal

Marsha MacBride will take over the National Association of Broadcasters' legal shop Dec. 15, the trade group announced last week. The former top aide to FCC Chairman Michael Powell replaces retiring Executive VP Jeff Baumann. She was Powell's chief of staff from 2001 to September 2003. During that time, she also chaired the FCC Homeland Security Policy Council. MacBride interrupted an FCC career that began in 1985 to become a vice president in Disney's Washington office from 2000 to '01. She had previously served as then-Commissioner Powell's media legal advisor from 1999 to 2000, as executive director of the FCC's Task Force on Y2K Conversion from 1998 to 2000 and as acting deputy chief of the Cable Services Bureau from 1997 to 1998.