Washington Watch


Tobacco Foes Push To Boost Anti-Smoking Ads

Anti-tobacco ads save lives, say anti-smoking advocates. Citing a new study demonstrating the ads' effectiveness, the anti-smoking faction hopes to persuade state officials to spend more of their tobacco settlement warning kids about the dangers of cigarettes.

Youth exposed to anti-tobacco ads are more likely to recognize that smoking is addictive and harmful and less likely to smoke, according to the study published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

“This new study demonstrates once again that funding tobacco-prevention programs is a wise investment that will reduce smoking, save lives and save money by reducing smoking-related health-care costs,” says Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Over the past three years, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention by 28%, according to the group. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all 50 states spend a combined minimum of $1.6 billion annually, they typically spend around $538 million.

Money earmarked for the ad campaigns is less than 3% of the $20 billion in annual revenue that states collected from a settlement reached between the federal government and the tobacco industry in 1998, and from tobacco taxes. Many states have used the settlement to fund Medicaid or other budgetary needs.

Black Women Open Media-Law Firm

Washington attorney Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt has founded the country's first communications-law firm owned by black women. She has teamed with Nicolaine Lazarre, a former corporate-law associate with Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and Fatima Fofana, a former Davis Wright Tremaine attorney who will focus on entertainment deals in Los Angeles. The firm is called the Ghatt Law Group.

The three women met each other at Washington-area universities; Ghatt was Lazarre's instructor at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation, a non-profit law clinic that specializes in telecommunications work. Fofana and Ghatt studied together at the University of Maryland and the Catholic University School of Law.

Ghatt says the firm will assist minority and small-business broadcast and communications clients. A major focus will be helping prospective station owners find properties to buy and the capital to buy them.

Deaf Viewers Voice Complaints to FCC

Faced with mounting complaints from deaf viewers, the FCC will propose increasing the amount of closed captioning that is required of TV stations and cable operators. Advocates are seeking to eliminate exemptions that allow stations to scrap real-time captioning during live news and emergency reports. The proposal will be unveiled at the FCC's monthly meeting July 14.

Stations and cable and satellite operators have been required to provide closed captioning since 1998, when the FCC began phasing in an increasing quota on captioned programming. Currently, stations must provide 1,350 hours each quarter, roughly 16 hours a day. By Jan. 1, all new programming must be captioned.

Because of the extra cost of employing typists to capture live dialogue, the FCC gives stations and cable operators a break on real-time captions. In news reports, programmers can run text of prepared news scripts in the captioning rather than what is said live. For emergency weather reports, stations may rely on other on-screen visuals—such as charts and maps—rather than closed captioning.

Captioning of pre-recorded shows runs between $400 and $1,000 per half-hour and can run five times as much for live programming.