American Telephone & Telegraph Co. Chairman Charles L. Brown waved a white flag at the nation's newspaper publishers today, saying his company's plan to create an electronic Yellow Pages appeared doomed because of the newspapers' energetic opposition.
"I have . . . no stomach for the argument over turf," Brown told the 96th convention of the American Newspaper Publishers Association here. "The ANPA obviously can get pretty much whatever it wants in legislation on this subject."
The Bell System's plan to distribute advertising over its phone lines to home computer screens and other video outlets could radically alter the way Americans do their shopping. But newspaper publishers have concluded the plan would hurt their own advertising and provide unfair competition to their own plans for electronic distribution of information and advertising.
Despite Brown's apparent admission of defeat, Robert G. Marbut, president of the Texas-based newspaper chain Harte-Hanks Communications Inc., warned the publishers that legislation prohibiting the electronic Yellow Pages plan might be held up this year because of the heavy congressional schedule, despite apparently strong support in Congress for the measure.
In his speech, Brown said the electronic Yellow Pages plan was "nowhere near the core of our business" and asked publishers to cooperate with Bell in exploiting the expanding new electronic technology.
"The existing telephone system is by far the most promising medium for delivering your electronic news and advertising to consumers," Brown said.