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Tom - Public broadcasting officials vowed Monday to fight drastic cuts President Bush is seeking to make to federal financing for public television and radio, warning that the reductions would seriously impair station operations. Bush’s proposed 2009 budget, released Monday, would more than halve the federal allocation to public broadcasting over the next two years, the deepest cuts to the system that he’s proposed during his administration. Under Bush’s plan, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, a private nonprofit that distributes the funds to local stations, would lose $420 million of the $820 million in federal funds it was set to receive over the next two years. In addition, the White House budget does not include advance funding for the 2011 fiscal year. The corporation is usually financed three years ahead of time to insulate the system from politics. Said Office of Management and Budget spokesman Sean Kevelighan: “The administration’s proposal is consistent with the evolving role of public broadcasting in a marketplace that has benefited from the tremendous growth and diversity of programming,” CPB President Patricia Harrison called the proposed reductions “draconian.”
Linda - The federal funds make up about 16% of a local station’s budget, on average. However, some small stations in rural communities depend on the money to operate and could be forced to shut down if the cuts are approved, according to Harrison. “What the cuts do is hit those stations least able to continue.” Public broadcasting advocates were taken aback by the scale of the cuts but are optimistic Congress will restore the funding. John Lawson, president of the Assn. of Public Television Stations, said, “We prevented these cuts when the Republicans were in control of Congress, and even though the budget situation for the Democrats is very tight, we expect they will again make us whole.” Ken Stern, chief executive of National Public Radio, said the reductions would diminish the “information, context and community that we provide more than 30 million citizens weekly.” He called on listeners to contact members of Congress to protest. Public broadcasters hope that Congress will not only roll back the cuts but will also grant an increase to the corporation’s budget in 2011, raising its allotment to $483 million.
Tom - According to the entertainment journal Variety, six national cable television programming companies have jointly sued the Federal Communications Commission, claiming that the agency’s so-called dual carriage requirement is unfair. C-Span, Discovery Communications, the Weather Channel, TV One, A&E Television Networks and Scripps Networks allege that the requirement constitutes both a First Amendment violation and an unfair advantage for broadcasters. The cablers are asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss the requirement, which forces cable operators to offer an analog version of a broadcaster’s channel as well as a digital one for at least three years following the transition to all-digital in early 2009. The FCC adopted the rule last fall as a means of ensuring that cable subscribers with analog TV sets would continue to receive viewable signals for at least a minimum period of time after the digital transition. But the cablers claimed that “the FCC’s favoritism to broadcasters not only ignores the public interest value of their programming, but it also violates their First Amendment right to ’speak’ to cable subscribers when they are forced off, or kept off cable systems because the limited available channel space must be given to broadcasters under the dual must-carry rule,” according to a joint statement. Said C-Span chairman Brian Lamb in a statement: “The Supreme Court has made it very clear that cable programmers have First Amendment rights,” “So it is frustrating to us and the other companies involved in this appeal that our audiences risk losing our programming and that we have to go to court just to get a fair shake from the FCC.”
Linda - FCC spokeswoman Mary Diamond responded, “The 1992 Cable Act is very clear. Cable operators must ensure that all local broadcast stations carried pursuant to this act are ‘viewable’ by all cable subscribers. The commission’s order made sure that the over 40 million cable subscribers with analog cable will continue to receive the same broadcast stations after the transition.” The broadcaster lobby blasted the lawsuit, courtesy of NAB exec veep Dennis Wharton, who accused the cable companies of breaching a promise made last year by cable lobby the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. to observe dual carriage. Said Wharton, “Today’s lawsuit by a handful of self-serving pay TV programmers represents yet another attempt by cable interests to block a successful digital television transition,” “By reneging on the NCTA commitment to preserve cable carriage of local broadcast stations to all cable customers after February 2009, these programmers threaten to block consumer access to scores of foreign language and religious TV stations all over America.”
Tom - According to a New York Times article, A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to a reporter of The New York Times, apparently to try to force him to reveal his confidential sources for a 2006 book on the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the reporter’s lawyers said Thursday. The subpoena was delivered last week to the New York law firm that is representing the reporter, James Risen, and ordered him to appear before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., on Feb. 7. Mr. Risen’s lawyer, David N. Kelley, who was the United States attorney in Manhattan early in the Bush administration, said in an interview that the subpoena sought the source of information for a specific chapter of the book “State of War.” The chapter asserted that the C.I.A. had unsuccessfully tried, beginning in the Clinton administration, to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program. None of the material in that chapter appeared in The New York Times. Mr. Risen and a colleague at The Times, Eric Lichtblau, won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for their disclosure of the administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants; Mr. Risen’s book expanded on their reporting about the domestic eavesdropping effort. Mr. Risen, who is based in Washington and specializes in intelligence issues, is the latest of several reporters to face subpoenas in leak investigations overseen by the Justice Department. A former reporter at The Times, Judith Miller, was jailed for 85 days in 2005 after initially refusing to identify a confidential source to a grand jury that was investigating the leak of the name of a covert C.I.A. operative. Ms. Miller testified after being granted a waiver by her source, I. Lewis Libby Jr., who was Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.
Linda - Martha K. Levin, executive vice president and publisher of Free Press, which published Mr. Risen’s book and is a unit of Simon & Schuster Inc., said in a statement that “the American people have been well served by Mr. Risen’s reporting.” Ms. Levin’s statement also said that “the ability to publish confidentially sourced information about our government’s practices and policies is one of the bedrock principles of a free and open society.”A spokeswoman for The Times, Catherine J. Mathis, said the paper “strongly supports Mr. Risen and deplores what seems to be a growing trend of government leak investigations focusing on journalists, particularly in the national security area.” Ms. Mathis would not say why the material about the C.I.A. program involving Iran appeared in Mr. Risen’s book but not in pages of The Times. “We don’t discuss matters not published in The Times,” she said. The Justice Department would not comment on the work of the grand jury that issued the subpoena to Mr. Risen.
Tom - According to Multichannel News, AT&T was criticized this week by the Alliance for Community Media as providing an “inferior” platform for public, educational and government channels. The ACM, which represents some 3,000 PEG organizations, singled out AT&T’s U-verse TV PEG access as “sub-par, low resolution [and] cumbersome” in testimony at a Jan. 29 meeting of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Said Annie Folger, executive director of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Midpeninsula Media Center, representing the ACM: “PEG channels are confined to a separate system inferior to commercial channels on AT&T’s system in virtually every way that matters to a viewer,” Among the deficiencies Folger cited: AT&T’s PEG channels do not allow closed-captioning; the telco’s own digital video recorders cannot record the PEG channels; video resolution is as much as 25% lower than commercial channels; and the channels take anywhere from 45 to 90 seconds to load. AT&T executive director of public affairs Michael Balmoris said in an e-mail that the telco is “continuing to evaluate this issue.” Currently, he said, the U-verse PEG platform provides “open captioning” that embeds text within the video stream (meaning that captions are visible to all viewers).
Linda - AT&T delivers PEG programming differently from the way it delivers commercial TV channels over its Internet Protocol TV network. Instead of assigning dedicated channel numbers to individual PEG programs, U-verse TV provides all community-access programming on channel 99. AT&T Michigan president Gail Torreano, speaking at the House subcommittee meeting, said that by aggregating PEG access under one channel number, “all U-verse customers will know exactly where to go for the available PEG programming in their area.”