KNIGHT-RIDDER SETS INTERACTIVE SIGHTS

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The linkup of Knight-Ridder and Bell Atlantic Corp. for an interactive TV test is the latest sign that barriers between publishers and telephone companies are breaking down.

Knight-Ridder, the nation's second largest newspaper group, will explore ways to develop news, information and advertising services as part of Bell Atlantic Video Services Co.'s Stargazer interactive TV service.

Stargazer will offer, via telephone lines, video and text services such as movies, TV programming, educational videos, local and national news, advertising and shopping.

Knight-Ridder, which publishes 29 daily newspapers in the U.S., will work with Bell Atlantic to develop sources for news and advertising and may bring other publishers into the effort.

"There is nothing exclusive about this arrangement," a Knight-Ridder spokeswoman said. "We are not saying there is only one way to go. The information superhighway has lots of on-ramps."

Bell Atlantic will conduct a movies-on-demand test in the Washington area this spring. Knight-Ridder services will be available to Stargazer customers in selected areas starting in 1995.

Newspapers publishers fought bitterly in Washington in recent years to keep the Baby Bells out of electronic information services. They argued that local telephone company monopolies would deny them access to the interactive services and siphon off newspaper ad dollars with their own electronic Yellow Pages services.

But newspapers have had some success in getting Congress and the Baby Bells to consider regulatory safeguards to protect against monopoly abuse.

Alliances already have been announced between Cox Newspapers and BellSouth Corp.; Heritage Newspapers and Ameritech Corp.; The Los Angeles Times and Pacific Telesis Group; Nynex Corp. and Newsday; and U S West and the Utah Press Association. Dow Jones & Co. has teamed with several of the Baby Bells.

Knight-Ridder is considered one of the more progressive newspaper companies in experimenting with new media. Its media lab is dedicated to developing a newspaper that can be read on a portable flat computer screen, and the San Jose Mercury News is available on America Online.

A previous foray into computer videotext folded in 1986, however, after two years and $50 million in losses.

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