Capital Watch


Snow Blows Ownership Forum

A media-ownership forum scheduled for Feb. 18 at the University of Southern California was postponed after snowed-in FCC commissioners could neither travel to Los Angeles to attend nor get to their Washington offices for a teleconference. No new date has yet been scheduled.

The FCC is currently split over whether to further relax media-ownership rules or leave them alone. The embattled commission also is fighting over further deregulation of telephone companies' broadband services, with Chairman Michael Powell and Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy wanting more deregulation and Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein, Kevin Martin and Michael Copps pushing for different approaches. The FCC planned an open meeting to vote on broadband deregulation Feb. 20, making it unlikely that the USC forum will be rescheduled until March.

Survey Shows Radio Variety

A new Arbitron survey appears to provide ammunition for those pushing for further media consolidation. Almost eight in 10 listeners (79%) said there is at least as much programming variety today as five years ago. "Radio listeners are very pleased with the programming choices available to them," said Arbitron in announcing the results. More than a third of respondents said they have more choice today.

"Contrary to the concern that some observers have expressed, more variety in programming—not less—is available to radio listeners following the consolidation that has taken place in the radio industry in recent years," said Arbitron Radio Senior VP/GM Scott Musgrave. The study is drawn from a random telephone survey of 2,005 fall 2002 diary keepers ages 12-plus. The full study, which was funded in-house, will be released later this month.

Stop, Drop and Tape Up

The Ad Council and the Department of Homeland Security unveiled a PSA campaign last week designed to help everyone prepare for potential terrorist attacks. The campaign, which includes TV, radio, print, outdoor and Internet components, was created by the Virginia-based Martin Agency. Both NAB and NCTA are donating satellite feeds to distribute the PSAs, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is planning to preach the preparedness gospel to state broadcast associations at the NAB's State Leadership Conference in Washington this week.

Minding the Kids TV

FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy and longtime children's-TV advocate Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) head the list of participants in a discussion on the effectiveness of the V-chip and ratings system in helping parents monitor their children's media consumption. Markey was a leading force in the adoption of both. The panel discussion, scheduled for Feb. 28 at the National Press Club in Washington, is sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Publishers Praise Oprah

The Association of American Publishers will salute Oprah Winfrey for her "unique contribution to American literary life" during its annual meeting in Washington Feb. 26. Her Oprah's Book Club, which she phased out last year, became a "must-reading" list.

CTPAA picks keynoters

The Cable Television Public Affairs Association has lined up the keynote speakers for its annual conference in Washington March 30-April 2. Heading the list are Jim Robbins, president and CEO of Cox Communications, and Robert Sachs (above), president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. President's Awards will go to Court TV's Henry Schleiff and Insight Communications' Michael Willner.