Phil Verveer, the former Justice Department attorney who headed the department's antitrust case against the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., was named yesterday to direct the powerful Broadcast Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission.
Vereer, 36, who has headed the FCC's Cable Bureau during the 13 months since his arrival at the FCC from Justice, was called "one of the most able lawyers that I have met in government," by FCC Chairman Charles Ferris after yesterday's decision by the commission.
Ferris said Verveer, who headed up the landmark cable television inquiry published by the FCC last week, "is one of the most intellectually honest and fair individuals I have come across."
Verveer will tackle some of the agency's tougher issues in his new position, succeeding Wallace Johnson, who retired. The network television inquiry and efforts to deregulate radio are on the top of Verveer's agenda, Ferris said.
The White House thinks American Telephone & Telegraph made too much money last year, and wants the Federal Communications to order the phone company to give back about $200 millions to consumers.
AT&T, on the other hand, thinks the government should permit it to make more money - which it claims to need for future investment - and allow it to keep the extra it made last year.
The debate concerns the fact that AT&T exceeded the 10 percent profit margin it is allowed by the FCC on interstate and foreign operations by about .38 percent last year.
AT&T notified the commission that it had exceeded the 10 percent profit margin in effect since 1976 and asked the agency to revise the figure upward. The extra revenue is needed, the company contended, because of additional capital expenditures necessary to make AT&T an attractive investment for stockholders. The Bell system, the company pointed out, is facing new competition in several areas because of deregulation in the communications area.
But White House consumer affairs adviser Esther Peterson said to allow AT&T to keep last year's excess profits - which she estimates to be about $200 million would "set an ill-advised and undesirable precedent."
In a petition filed with the FCC, Peterson said "the excessive and apparently unlawful revenues AT&T has received during 1978 have been derived from all classes of Bell System's consumers," and asked the agency to force Ma Bell to roll back long-distance phone rates, or to order that consumers be given credits against future long-distance phone bills.
The FCC has jurisdiction over only interstate and foreign phone operations, with intrastate business falling under the regulatory arms of the states where the company resides.
Peterson's filing with the FCC comes from the Office of Consumer Affairs of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which recently was put under her supervision. The OCA has become increasingly aggressive as an intervnor for consumer interests in regulatory matters.
The American Dental Association, under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission, has agreed not to restrict truthful advertising by dentists.
The FTC had, in an antitrust action filed two years ago, alleged that the so-called "ethical standards" the ADA set preventing most dentists from advertising were illegal and designed to inflate the cost of dental care to consumers.
Under a consent agreement between the ADA and the FTC, the case will be settled when a similar FTC action against the American Medical Association is decided, probably by the Supreme Court.
Whatever the court rules on the FTC action against the AMA - which deals with restrictions on doctors' advertising - will be applied to the ADA and dentists, under the agreement.
Meanwhile, under the ADA agreement, all ethical restrictions against truthful dental advertising will be barred while the AMA case remains in litigation.
The ADA must also send letters to its 130,000 members and local affiliated dental societies informing them of the agreement and urging cooperation. The ADA counts about 95 percent of all dentists as members."
While it is true the ADA has been loosening restrictions against certain forms of dental advertising, few dentists have taken to advertising. FTC staffers feel, however, that the letters sent out under the agreement could lead to an increase in such promotional activities, which they contend will lead to lower, more competitive rates for dental care.
In an effort to win approval of the Federal Communications Commission for the purchase of five television stations from the Newhouse Broadcasting Co., the Times-Mirror Co. has announced an agreement with three community groups for a special program designed to assist minorities in getting jobs in broadcasting.
Times-Mirror, which own several publishing concerns, including the Los Angeles Times, said it was taking steps to add minority representatives to its board of directors and to establish a special committee to promote equal employment at all levels of the company.
The company also agreed to set up separate $500,000 funds, one for minority education grants and two to help minorities buy broadcast outlets, if purchase of the Newhouse stations is approved.
Two community organizations have objected to the sale. The National Black Media Coalition opposed all five stations being sold, while a local group in St. Louis has opposed the sale of the station there. The other four stations are located in Birmingham, Ala.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Elmira, N.Y.The pricetag on the sale is 82.4 million.