* A powerful new force is promoting consumer protection these days, according to Adweek's Marketing Week (May 13). A small but growing number of local TV stations have aggressive consumer reporters who target local problems, who work closely with government officials, and whose stories are often picked up by other media. As a result, marketers must pay at least as much attention to these reporters as to federal and state regulators.
* Parental-leave laws cause few problems for employers, according to a new study cited in Business Insurance (June 3). A study of employers in four states with such laws found that 91% had no difficulty complying with them. In the study, conducted by Families & Work Institute, in New York City, small businesses reported no more problems than large ones did. One reason: many employees can't afford to take long unpaid leaves.
* Small businesses are not always the engine of job generation. A new paper by researchers from Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration points out that from 1986 through 1988, small businesses actually created less than their share of new jobs. It was only the second time in the 12-year period covered by the SBA's Small Business Database that the proportion had gone below 50%. Researchers speculate that during the late phases of an economic boom, large companies expand rapidly and thus create more jobs.
* The trend toward states' allowing small employers to purchase "bare bones" health-insurance coverage continues to gather steam. According to "Health Benefits Letter" (May 23), based in Alexandria, Va., 16 states have adopted laws allowing insurers to sell no-frills, small-group health plans. Such plans are exempt from some of the specialized coverage usually mandated under state law.
* To succeed in Europe, U.S. companies will need to pay attention to Europe's quality standard, Electronics magazine (May) reports. Called the ISO 9000, it is a set of guidelines and standards for a quality-assurance system for any product or service. Throughout most of Western Europe, ISO 9000 is seen as an important part of a business's strategy, but European quality managers told Electronics many U.S. companies are ignoring it. The American Society for Quality Control, in Milwaukee, has established an accreditation board for ISO 9000. (Note: the ISO 9000 standard goes by the name of ANSI/ASQC Q90 in the United States.)
* Commercial banks are parking more of their money in government securities rather than making loans. According to figures cited in American Banker (May 13), banks increased their holdings of securities at a 17% annual rate during the months of February and March. The reason: banks are facing a rise in money-supply growth but see few loans they want to make, because of weak corporate demand and tougher credit standards. The trend toward making more securities purchases has occurred in almost every recession. -- Martha E. Mangelsdorf