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Educational Cable-TV Project Launched

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A consortium of cable-television companies has launched an initiative aimed at providing schools with free cable hookups and tailoring their programming to better meet educational needs.

The Cable Alliance for Education includes major cable networks, such as the Discovery Channel, the Cable News Network, and Black Entertainment Television, and some of the largest cable-system operators, such as Continental Cablevision Inc. and Tele-Communications Inc.

The cooperative undertaking represents the first industrywide effort to offer cable services to schools. A number of cable programmers, however, have been moving individually in recent months toward greater interaction with the schools.

In August, for example, the Cable News Network debuted "CNN Newsroom," a 15-minute news show for teenagers designed to be taped and shown in classrooms.

The Discovery Channel is now offering "Assignment Discovery," an hourlong daily packaging of the network's documentaries into segments teachers can use with their regular curriculum. And the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network provides short-subject reports on how government works.

Announcement of the formation of the alliance was accompanied by no word of new educational programming, however. Officials said that additional cable networks were examining their offerings to determine what might be of interest to teachers.

"This is a vehicle by which the industry can draw together what it learns in the next year to see how we can help teachers," said Louise Rauscher Mooney, a spokesman for the alliance.

Sixteen cable programmers8and 22 system operators--serving, together, more than 60 percent of cable-TV homes--have joined forces in the alliance.

Cable operators in the alliance have agreed to provide free connection and basic cable service to all junior and senior high schools within range of cable lines, Ms. Mooney said.

The industry did not make a commitment to provide schools with video equipment, although some cable operators have pledged to help arrange for it.

The independent media concern Whittle Communications of Knoxville, Tenn., is proceeding with plans to offer its "Channel One" news program to schools beginning in the spring.

Whittle plans to donate video equipment to schools that agree to show "Channel One." But the 12-minute program includes two minutes of commercials, which has raised objections from educators.

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