News in Brief (Washington)

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F.C.C. Weighs Tightening Children's Television Act: The Federal Communications Commission should require broadcasters to air at least one hour a day of children's educational programming, several advocates urged at a recent F.C.C. hearing.

The June 28 event was the commission's first major hearing on children's television in a decade. The commission is considering strengthening its interpretation of the 1990 Children's Television Act, which in vague terms requires broadcast licensees to air educational shows tailored for children.

Peggy Charren, a longtime children's-television advocate, urged the F.C.C. to give up efforts to make commercial broadcasters act responsibly and instead charge them a fee. The Public Broadcasting Service could use the funds to improve and expand its children's shows.

"I believe a reasonable amount is $100 million annually, which is less than half of 1 percent of the revenues of the TV broadcast industry,'' she said.

Broadcast executives said the amount of educational programming is on the increase and warned that a daily requirement could run afoul of the First Amendment.

At least two members of the five-person F.C.C. expressed similar reservations, but Reed Hundt, the commission's chairman, hinted that he favors stronger regulations.

Meanwhile, the four major commercial broadcast networks have chosen the Center for Communication Policy at the University of California at Los Angeles to analyze violence in their shows. They agreed to an independent monitor to forestall Congressional action. Cable networks have chosen a separate monitor.

Loan Rules: The Education Department last week issued regulations that will allow borrowers to base student-loan payments on their income, in some cases stretching out payments over 25 years.

Under the traditional repayment plan, borrowers repay a set monthly amount for 10 years, regardless of their income.

Regulations outlining repayment options for participants in the new federal direct-lending program, under which the government makes loans directly to students, would allow borrowers as long as 25 years to pay back their loans on a sliding, income-based scale.

A separate set of rules issued by the department introduces an income-sensitive repayment option for the older federal loan programs. Borrowers will be able to increase their payments gradually as their incomes rise, but they must still pay off the balance in 10 years.

The Clinton Administration argues that the plan will improve access to higher education for students discouraged by high monthly payments, and cut defaults among borrowers with low salaries.

Critics say that students will end up mired in excessive debt as interest accrues over a longer period.

Telco Bill: The House has passed a sweeping revision of the nation's telecommunications laws that contains provisions to insure that schools have access to advanced telecommunications networks.

Members voted 423 to 5 late last month to approve the measure, which encourages competition in the telecommunications industry.

It also directs the Federal Communications Commission to develop a rate structure that will provide schools with preferential rates and to help insure "universal access'' to computer networks.

A similar measure is pending in the Senate.

Teenage Drivers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month called for increased restrictions on young drivers in a report highlighting the risks that teenagers take behind the wheel.

In a survey of Gwinnett County, Ga., drivers ages 16 through 19, more than 80 percent reported driving 20 miles per hour or more over the speed limit at least once in the past three months. More than half reported some type of risky driving behavior.

The report noted that 6,000 persons ages 16 to 20 die in motor-vehicle accidents each year--twice as many as from any other cause.

It suggests banning unsupervised nighttime driving, limiting the distances and types of roads that teenagers could travel, and a "graduated'' licensing process requiring beginning drivers to drive only in low-risk situations.

Vol. 13, Issue 39E, Page 16

Published in Print: July 13, 1994, as News in Brief (Washington)
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