Nonprofits courting DBS for set-aside channels

A ground-floor chance to secure channel space on direct broadcast satellites is opening up for noncommercial organizations that have the wherewithal to deliver educational or informational public-service programming. DirecTV, the largest DBS system, has set a Sept. 1 [1999] application deadline for prospective programmers to be considered in its initial selection of new channels. PBS, Internews, and Free Speech TV are among the nonprofits vying for the space. DBS services–a once-crowded field of competitors that has merged down to two major players–are under orders from the Federal Communications Commission to allocate 4 percent of their video channel capacity for noncommercial educational programming.