Business briefs 1/28/04

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Broadcasters, cable fight over rules of digital TV

WASHINGTON -- To most couch potatoes, digital television means a sharper picture. Broadcasters see another advantage, though: They could offer up to six times as many channels. Broadcast networks say they'll offer more channels if the government requires cable companies to carry them. But cable companies, which have room for only a limited number of channels, say a federal mandate could force them to drop cable services to make room for extra broadcast channels. The issue is before the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to decide by spring whether cable companies must carry the extra broadcast channels.

Futures trading prior to mad cow investigated

WASHINGTON -- A federal investigation has been launched to determine whether commodities traders profited last month from advance knowledge of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease. The Commodity Futures Exchange Commission is looking into cattle futures trading data on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as far back as Dec. 9 -- the day the diseased Canadian Holstein was slaughtered in Washington state and two weeks before the Department of Agriculture confirmed it as the country's first case of mad cow. Investigators are targeting investors who made bets that cattle prices would decline prior to the Dec. 23 announcement.

Kraft to cut 6,000 jobs, close 20 plants in 3 years

CHICAGO -- Kraft Foods Inc. said Tuesday it will eliminate 6,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its work force, and close 20 plants worldwide over the next three years as part of a restructuring that follows more than a year of disappointing sales and earnings for the biggest U.S. food company. About 1,300 salaried positions in North America will be eliminated in the first quarter, with the remaining cuts occurring by 2007, Kraft said. The moves were disclosed in Kraft's fourth-quarter earnings release Tuesday afternoon. Net income of $869 million represented a 7 percent drop from a year earlier.

-- From wire reports

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