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Businessweek Archives

Call It The V For Victory Chip

Readers Report


BUSINESS WEEK's contribution to the public dialogue concerning TV ratings and the V-chip was misleading ("TV ratings: How politics undermined parents," News: Analysis & Commentary, Dec. 30). I understand the news value of finding a new angle on an old story, but in this case the new angle was askew.

The fact is that if government had not intervened in this matter, there would be no national debate over a ratings system and no reasonable expectation of making the V-chip widely available in all but the smallest TV sets. A nasty dispute between the broadcasters and the TV set manufacturers had killed this important consumer feature in 1993. Only Congress, through passing the V-chip law, broke the industry stalemate and revived this technological blocking device for parents.

Your article did accurately report that the age-based ratings favored by the TV industry are not what parents want or need. The industry proposal is now subject to public comment at the Federal Communications Commission. Every parent who is concerned about the ratings should make his or her feelings known to the commission. But it is clear that if we had waited for the TV industry to provide millions of parents with the ability to block out unwanted programming, we would still be waiting.

Edward J. Markey

U.S. House of Representatives

Joseph Lieberman

U.S. Senate

WashingtonReturn to top


Gary Becker correctly identifies the shortage of donated organs for transplantation as a major problem, but his proposal for a market solution is not well-informed ("How Uncle Sam could ease the organ shortage," Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 20).

Becker envisions a futures market for organs in which the prospective donor contracts for delivery of transplantable organs upon death. This idea is simple in concept, but probably prohibitively expensive. Fewer than 1% of all deaths involve medically suitable potential organ donors. The probability of someone dying in a given year under circumstances permitting organ donation is only about 1 in 16,700. Using conservative estimates, the contracting costs leading to a single additional donor could easily exceed $800,000, excluding actual compensation for the organs.

New research shows that hospital practice--not public reluctance--is the big barrier to donation. More than 25% of the families of eligible donors are never asked to donate. Of those who are asked, only about half agree to donate. However, when hospital staff are trained in how to identify donors and to make requests, donation rates reach nearly 75% without financial incentives.

Economic incentives might be better used to motivate nontransplant hospitals to improve their organ procurement practices. These hospitals now have little incentive to improve donation.

Susan L. Ettner

Health Care Policy Dept.

Harvard Medical School

Carol L. Beasley

Managing Director

The Partnership for Organ Donation

BostonReturn to top


Business' relationship with government is a stormy one ("Newt should keep his eye on the enemy: Big government," Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 13). But we need government to protect the public--to ensure we have safe medicines, safe toys, seat belts, child labor laws, the Securities & Exchange Commission, and truth-in-advertising legislation, to name a few.

How about some articles promoting business-government cooperation?

Donald F. Maxstadt

Muncie, Ind.Return to top

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