Business is booming on TV - well, business programs are
The business of business is fast becoming everybody's business . . . at least , on American television. ''Wall Street Week'' (PBS, Fridays, check local listings) attracts more than 10 million viewers weekly. ''Enterprise,'' hosted by Eric Sevareid, has joined the PBS Friday business lineup. And PBS has just added another business show - ''The Nightly Business Report'' (PBS, live via satellite, 6:30-7 p.m. but check local listings since many stations have chosen to air it immediately before or after the ''MacNeil/Lehrer Report'').
All of the networks are now featuring regular expert business and economics reports on the evening news. And Louis Rukeyser, host of the pathfinding show ''Wall Street Week,'' has just added a second weekly half-hour show, ''Louis Rukeyser's Business Journal,'' which is being syndicated to local stations other than PBS affiliates.
Mr. Rukeyser, who covered financial news for ABC for several years, is one of TV's first business personalities. And he is so busy these days that sometimes his tight schedule makes him appear to be elusive. He lives in Greenwich, Conn., commutes to Baltimore, to tape ''Wall Street Week,'' travels all around the country to give more than 100 lectures a year, writes a three-times-a-week newspaper column in between writing several books, and now has added ''Business Journal.''
A limousine was dispatched to Greenwich on the Saturday before the premiere show to pick up Mr. Rukeyser and bring him to the New York studio. After the taping run-through, he was to be chauffeured back to Greenwich. I joined him on the trip into New York to have an hour-and-a-half for an uninterrupted interview. I was assured that there was no telephone in the limousine - this was the only way I could be certain of getting the busy Mr. Rukeyser at all. He appeared, appropriately dressed in a gray business suit, his hair just puffy enough around the ears to make him look, again appropriately, like the portrait of George Washington which appears on the $1 bill.
How will the new Rukeyser show compare with the old ''Wall Street Week?''
''It will be quite different. To begin with, its area of coverage will be the entire world of business, without any specific emphasis on investing. Beyond that, it's going to be have production values lacking in 'Wall Street Week.' It will have pieces taped in the field, covering important and/or fascinating developments in the world of business. It will pay attention to the ongoing business of business, how it really works, who the players are, what decisions they're faced with. It will have interviews with prominent personalities, debates on controversial issues, a personal finance section, and a few comments from Lou.'' (The first two programs, already aired, featured interviews with the presidents of Grumman and Pan American).
Is ''Louis Rukeyser's Business Journal'' aimed at the average person interested in his own finances or the kind of person who reads the Wall Street Journal every day?
''If we got all the readers of all the business publications in the country - that wouldn't be enough. 'Wall Street Week,' for example, gets more than twice the number of readers of the Wall Street Journal. And that's the biggest of the publications. We want a much broader audience. To be sure, we will be watched by business people, by the more affluent - but I will be highly disappointed if we don't get a substantial audience of younger people and blue-collar people.''
Might Rukeyser find himself competing with himself?
''I don't think so. There are such different elements in the two programs that they will be quite obviously two different kinds of progams. And I am hopeful that 60 minutes a week of Rukeyser will not prove to be excessive.''
Why is there such a growing interest in financial matters among the general public?
''The answer to that lies in recent American history. In the 1960s when I invented economic commentary on national television at ABC, it was like pulling teeth to get any of that material on the air because of the general assumption by TV executives that the subject of economics was too dull and/or complicated for a mass audience.
''In actual fact, every time it has been done well, it has produced audiences they would invariably find surprising. In the 1960s there was almost a contempt for economics. The dominant view in politics and journalism was that issues of national goals and ideals were most important. Then the technicians would be called in to take care of the economic trivia. What we discovered in the 1970s was that if you don't get the economics straight, nothing else matters. It doesn't matter how compassionate your goals or how generous your spirit, if the economy doesn't work nothing else is going to happen.''I think this realization dawned upon the American people before it dawned on the American politicians and news media. It's just beginning to dawn on them now. The dominant question in Washington now is the economy and my journalistic colleagues are belatedly coming to realize that as well.'' The law and video cassettes
Will all owners of VCR's (video cassette recorders) who tape commercial TV programming for future viewing become ''lawbreakers?''
And if a recent San Francisco federal appellate court ruling - which designates home recordings for private use as an infringement of copyrighted programming - is upheld upon appeal, would the same restrictions on recording apply to owners of audio recording equipment?
Current speculation in the industry is that the solution may be a fee paid by the manufacturer to an organization such as ASCAP, which functions in the music field. The fee probably would be tacked onto the consumer's price, now hovering between $500 and $900 for most models. The ASCAP-like organization would then distribute the fees to copyright holders.
The appeals court ruling, aimed specifically at Sony Betamax but potentially applicable to all VCR manufacturers, distributers, sellers, and buyers, may strike fear into the hearts of the estimated 4 percent of American households with color TV sets that also own VCR equipment. Probably 100 percent of those owners use their machines to record off-the-air copyrighted programming in order to view it when convenient.
It may frighten them - or, most likely, amuse them - since the ruling seems impossible to implement in individual households which already own VCR equipment without endangering their constitutional rights of privacy. However, if pending appeals do not bring a reversal, the ruling would probably most affect manufacturers who would be held liable for damages.
The commercial TV networks, which hold the copyright on much of their own programming, decline to comment since the matter is still in litigation.
Independent producers, many of whom hold their own copyrights, are jubilant, since it is felt that the decision will somehow result in additional payments to them, or at least additional sales of legal cassettes of their shows.