Gannett to Gain Entry To Cable, TV Syndication

Gannett Company Inc.'s plan to buy Multimedia Inc. for $1.7 billion would propel Gannett into two big, growing businesses - cable television and TV program syndication. It is the company's most aggressive effort to strengthen its core newspaper business and expand beyond it.

Gannett's agreement to buy Multimedia, announced July 24, comes as the United States Congress is considering deregulating the telecommunications industry, which would make Gannett's foray into cable and re-entry into the TV syndication business even more attractive, analysts say.

Multimedia's best-known assets are syndicated talk shows, including Phil Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Rush Limbaugh. Its cable-TV properties are the greatest source of revenue and profit for the Greenville, S.C., company, analysts say.

The entertainment group, analysts said July 24, accounted for $74 million in revenues for the first half of this year, coming in slightly behind revenues from Multimedia's newspaper and broadcast operations of $78 million and $75.2 million, respectively.

Senate panel debates on-line computer services used by youths

Computer on-line services have inadvertently created a ''pedophile superstore'' that lets pornographers corrupt youths, a US Senate committee was told July 24 in the first congressional hearing on ''cyberporn.'' But an attorney for the nation's largest computer on-line service said it has hired more ''cybercops'' to kick such criminals out of electronic ''public chat rooms.'' The company says it offers free technology to let parents block indecent material, including any from the global Internet computer system.

''We don't want their business,'' William Burrington, an attorney for America Online Inc., said of computer users who deal in lurid talk and materials. The Virginia company has 24 ''cybercops'' who monitor Online's public chat rooms and plans to double that number. Six months ago it had just four people doing such work.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill to make it illegal for on-line services to ''knowingly'' transmit pornography to children or allow their systems to be used as a conduit for pornographic material.

But the Clinton administration as well as House Republican leaders have objected to the measure, saying it would be difficult to enforce. America Online and other groups estimate that indecent materials make up only one-half of 1 percent of Internet activity, and that the majority of pornographic exchanges take place on adults-only on-line services.

Canadian high court affirms libel award

The Canadian Supreme Court affirmed Canada's largest libel award, rejecting calls for US-style defamation laws that would provide greater protection from libel lawsuits.

In the July 20 ruling, the court dismissed an appeal by the Church of Scientology and its lawyer, Morris Manning, of the 1991 award of $1.6 million to Casey Hill, then an Ontario government attorney.

At issue was whether public officials can sue for libel over remarks about the performance of their duties. In its judgment, the Supreme Court stressed the importance of a good reputation, particularly to a lawyer's professional life.

Mr. Hill, who has since become a judge, initiated a libel suit against the church and Mr. Manning in 1984. It was prompted by statements Manning made at a news conference about Hill's legal conduct related to a police raid on Scientology headquarters in Toronto. Hill had been advising police.

The church, as well as several media groups, argued at a February hearing that current libel law violates Canada's Charter of Rights' guarantee of free expression.

The Writers' Union of Canada, the Canadian Association of Journalists, and three other groups said people must be free to criticize public institutions - even if it means attacking the work of government employees.

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