Group aims to create better online experience

Viacom, NBC Universal and the Songwriters Guild of America are teaming with Cisco Systems, AT&T and Microsoft to form a new tech-meets-showbiz advocacy group called Arts and Labs.

The group has a multifaceted mission: pushing for enhanced Web content on safe, reliable networks; seeking fair compensation and protection for content creators; and steering consumers toward what they deem high-quality content and away from Web menaces like spyware and spam.

The group was announced at a Wednesday morning news conference in Gotham. Similar events are planned soon in Los Angeles and Nashville, Tenn.

Arts and Labs bills itself as “a collaboration between creators and innovators who regard the Internet as a vibrant town center where all consumers can safely choose from a vast array of digital products, entertainment and services.”

The group is co-chaired by Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary to President Bill Clinton, and Mark McKinnon, a former songwriter and newspaper editor who is better known as a former campaign adviser to John McCain and President George Bush.

Rick Carnes, prexy of the songwriter’s guild, and Chuck Sims, of the law firm Proskauer Rose, also have agreed to join Arts and Labs as the first members of the group’s advisory board.

Unstated but certainly a central issue for the group is Net neutrality, the widely debated concept that the Web should be equally balanced so that particular applications or technologies do not have an unfair advantage. Another is Web-filtering technology, which has become a focus for a lot of media companies trying to stand out in a Web landscape made more crowded by the rise of social-networking sites like Facebook.

(William Triplett in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.)

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