Non-Washington News Is Tops

WHILE Washington focuses on what US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia and the Republicans are doing, the rest of the country is paying more attention to the earthquake in Japan, violence at abortion clinics, and the O.J. Simpson trial.

The trial tied with the state of the economy for third place in news interest, said the survey by the Times Mirror Center, which conducted 1,209 telephone interviews the weekend of Feb. 11-12.

The most closely followed news events, the survey found, were the Japan earthquake and abortion-clinic violence. Even with media attention focused on Speaker Gingrich, 64 percent of Americans can identify Lance Ito as the the Simpson murder-case judge, while only 52 percent know Gingrich is the Speaker of the House.

Paradoxically, the start of the Simpson trial has not increased the public's interest in the case, said the survey, released Feb. 16. The earthquake in Japan captured the close attention of 25 percent of those questioned, abortion-clinic violence garnered 24 percent. The Simpson trial was followed closely by 23 percent, substantially below the 48 percent who were following the story closely when Mr. Simpson was arrested last June.

The survey cited these other news developments and the percentages of Americans who followed them ``very closely'': activities of new Republican leaders, 19 percent; President Clinton's loan guarantees to Mexico, 14 percent; balance-budget debate, 13 percent; baseball strike, 12 percent. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Lawyers back television cameras in federal court

THE nation's largest group of lawyers wants federal judges to resurrect an experiment that for three years allowed television coverage of federal courtroom proceedings in some noncriminal cases.

But prospects appear dim that the American Bar Association's new policy will have any immediate effect. The ABA's House of Delegates voted Feb. 13 to urge a resumption of the cameras-in-the-courtroom experiment after hearing from Philadelphia lawyer Robert Landis that the pilot program had been successful.

No one spoke against Mr. Landis's motion on behalf of the lawyer group's federal-court improvements committee, but the voice vote among the 538 delegates was not unanimous. Europe faces new US invasion - via computer

EUROPEANS already worried about their culture being sullied by American movies and TV have found a new cause for concern: American domination of cyberspace.

With computers, telecommunications, and television expected to converge into the behemoth industry of the future, the European Union is girding for an uphill battle to gain more of the crucial software and multimedia market.

The world's seven biggest industrial powers meet this weekend to discuss the information society. The session could be the next round in Europe's fight to entrench itself in the data stream and prevent American industrial might from turning into cultural domination.

France, which has led recent efforts to limit European imports of American movies and TV shows, is expected to push the issue at the G-7 meeting in Brussels. US Vice President Al Gore Jr. will attend, as will officials from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan.

``In the next century, we risk the wholesale globalization of culture,'' said John Birt, director general of the British Broadcasting Corp. ``By and large, this will mean an Americanized world culture.''

House rescinds tax break for minority ownership of media

THE US House of Representatives voted Tuesday to repeal a special tax break for minority broadcasters, possibly killing Viacom's planned $2.3 billion cable-TV sale and setting off a racially charged argument over affirmative-action programs. The repeal was part of an overall bill to permanently extend a popular 25 percent tax deduction for health insurance for the self-employed, which passed the House by a vote of 381-44.

``You're firing the first shot across the bow in knocking out affirmative action and preferential treatment,'' Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York argued during debate.

Republicans said they were getting rid of the minority preference, which could have resulted in a $640 million tax break for Viacom, because it was bad policy. Recent studies have suggested that wealthy business owners have used minorities as fronts to collect the tax break.

The legislation now goes to the Senate.

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