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Of Human Interest: News lite

By ELLEN BECK, United Press International

BBC TOLD JUSTIFY ITSELF

The troubled British Broadcasting Corp., struck by declining audience figures and accusations it is "dumbing down" to try to regain viewers, is under pressure to justify the license fee it charges the public or lose the $4.2 billion that pours into its coffers each year.

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In an abrupt about-face, Prime Minister Tony Blair's government says the BBC will face a hard-nosed review of its television, radio and online operations and the funding that pays for it -- an implied threat its charter might be in danger when it comes up for renewal in 2006.

A license fee of $3.30 for television viewing was introduced in 1946, when there were about 7,500 TV sets in public hands.

Today, the fee stands at $185 annually for a license to watch BBC color television, and it rises steadily every year.


BILL BANS WIDE RANGE OF SPEECH

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You might have to start watching your language in Moscow. The Russian Duma's lower house has passed a bill that would ban naughty words and a slew of other descriptives.

The news agency Tass reports the bill to make Russian the official language of the Russian Federation, also includes public use of the language and outdoor advertising.

"It is stated specifically that the use of the Russian language as the official language does not allow for public use of invectives referring to race, nationality, occupation, social status, sex, language, religious, political and other convictions of citizens, the use of obscene words and expressions and of foreign words and word combinations

lf there exist their analogues in Russian," Tass reported.

"These provisions also envisage the ban on the use of obscenities and jargon on TV and on the air and in printed publications," the agency continued.


DID YOU CATCH THAT BEAT?

The music is entitled, "As Slow as Possible" and it is.

The British Broadcasting Corp. says the piece by the late John Cage is to go on for 639 years and its first notes were played on a German church organ Wednesday.

The BBC says the three notes will last for a year-and-a-half. The performance actually began 17 months ago but all that was heard in that time was the sound of the organ bellows being inflated.

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The music being played in Halberstadt, a small town known for its ancient organs, is actually a 20-minute piano piece but a group of musicians and philosophers decided to take the title literally and worked out a 639-year stretch because the Halberstadt organ was 639 years old in the year 2000.


TARNISHED HALOS ANNOUNCED

Winners of the 2002 Tarnished Halo Awards have been handed out by the Center for Consumer Freedom to "America's most notorious animal rights zealots, environmental scaremongers, celebrity busybodies, self-anointed public interest advocates, trial lawyers, and other food and beverage activists who claim to 'know what's best for you.'"

The non-profit industry coalition said the winners in the "Billions and Billions Sought" category are lawyers Samuel Hirsch and John Banzhaf, for suing fast-food chains for being responsible for their customers' obesity.

The group said the "Captain Obvious" award went to the Center for Science in the Public Interest for calling a news conference to announce the nutritional information provided by pizza chains is accurate -- adding sausage adds calories and eating side dishes will further increase the calorie count.

The "I'm From the Government and I'm Here to Help" award was given to the state of Maine for a taxpayer-funded "Enough is Enough" ad campaign advising citizens to avoid soft drinks by urging them to "cut the crap."

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