American Pie 16.08.01


Is a sports event news or entertainment? Many sports clubs here now want to sell rights to their games and other events exclusively to television – and are trying to exclude news cameramen. The issue is being fought in Eugene, Oregon, where the local university recently sold the rights to its games to cable  sports network ESPN. When one of the local TV stations complained, the university set new rules: news coverage of their games had to be limited  to 20 seconds of highlights and 20 seconds of interviews with players for two days after a game. The following five days the TV station could use a total of 60 seconds. After that, nothing. The edict has created a storm of controversy, with local newspapers pointing out that if sports is news – which it is, the papers say – then the university can’t regulate the broadcasting of news any more than it can tell a paper how many pictures or words it can use. The university, for the moment, is holding fast – but has said it will review its policy.


Life lives again. Once the best known picture magazine in the world, Life has been folded, then revived no fewer than three times since the Second World War. Now, after having been closed since the spring of 2000, it is being resurrected. This time as a "bookazine" – which means it will be published eight times a year, without ads, like a paperback, and there will be no subscriptions. It will live – or die again – by how many it sells on the news-stand. Its revival has been sparked by the reception to a recent Life special edition called Pearl Harbor: America’s Call to Arms which sold 100,000 copies.


Tina Brown’s Talk is in the doghouse at the White House. The latest issue carries a photo-spread depicting the two teenage daughters of President Bush as jailbirds – despite a recent appeal by Mrs Bush to lay off the girls. Although the spread in Talk doesn’t identify Jenna and Barbara Bush, who were in trouble earlier this year for underage drinking, the lookalike models, pictured behind bars, are flanked by a male model that looks like George Bush and a couple of fake Secret Service men. A spokesman for Talk insisted it was all in good fun, but the White House was not amused and has given orders that no interviews – on any subject – will be given to anyone representing Talk, even freelances.


In the publishing business things are only going to get worse, according to one of the US’s leading investment bankers, Veronis Suhler, which has been conducting annual surveys of the communications industry since 1985. Although there could be an upturn in advertisement income over the next five years, it will no more than half what it was in the five years before 2000. The company also predicts a downturn in the overall growth of the communications industry. In the next five years it is not likely to be much more than five per cent. Cable, says the report, is still the fastest growing segment of the industry and by 2005 is likely to supplant newspapers.


Although overall the number of newspapers in the US is on the decline, airport newspapers, devoted largely to news about what’s happening at the biggest airports in the country, are booming. There are no fewer than eight, maybe a dozen, with circulations ranging from 10,000 to over 175,000 and readers ranging from snack bar cashiers and baggage handlers  to air traffic controllers.

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