Briefly Noted

May 21, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Big 4 networks rebut affiliate complaints
In a letter last week to the Federal Communications Commission, the Big 4 networks responded to the latest round of charges by the major affiliate organizations alleging that the networks routinely engage in abuses aimed at curbing affiliate authority over programming. CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox insisted that accusations leveled by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance in their original March petition to the FCC are a “confusing mixture of unsubstantiated factual allegations.”
And they said a May 2 letter from NASA to the agency that further clarified the affiliates’ concerns “is a post facto attempt to shore up the petition’s manifest flaws by recasting it in a new light.” The networks said the FCC should dismiss NASA’s complaints outright, but if it does not, it should consider them as part of a pending network-affiliate rulemaking. NASA is not seeking fines or enforcement action against the networks but does want the FCC to clarify its rule regarding network-affiliate relations.
Cable execs fight against dual must-carry
About two dozen cable television industry executives converged on Capitol Hill last week to lobby lawmakers against dual must-carry of analog and digital signals during broadcasters’ digital transition.
The Federal Communications Commission has tentatively concluded that dual must-carry should not be required, but the cable industry is taking no chances. Cable companies also want to head off possible requirements forcing them to carry all multicast digital signals to be offered by broadcasters. Public broadcasters, which have based their DTV business plans on multicasting, are concerned about the cable industry’s stance.
“Should there be any exceptions? I think the answer to that is no. We’re all on a level playing field. They’re not a better citizen than anybody else in this room,” said Nick Davatzes, president and CEO of A&E Television Networks, referring to public broadcasters. “We’re not in favor of the government deciding who’s going to be winners and losers,” he told reporters.
AOL TW seeks `weakest ISPs,’ watchdog alleges
The watchdog Center for Digital Democracy has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether AOL Time Warner has struck a deal with an Internet service provider it already has ties to. The group says AOL Time Warner is violating its consent decree with the agency, which requires it to sign up three unaffiliated Internet companies for its broadband service. AOL Time Warner recently agreed to carry High Speed Access Corp. That’s an ISP controlled by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, who owns Charter Communications, which has business relationships with AOL Time Warner.
“What I think AOL Time Warner is trying to do is find the weakest ISPs,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the group, an offshoot of the Center for Media Education. AOL Time Warner spokeswoman Kathy McKiernan said the arrangement is “a great deal for consumers.”
Murdoch on the biggest fish, shrinking Turner
In an interview last week on CNBC, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch responded to Sen. John McCain’s charge last week that the media mogul’s attempt to acquire DirecTV could result in “a consolidation of power the likes of which this country has not seen since William Randolph Hearst.”
The lawmaker, who heads a Senate panel that regulates the television industry, made his remarks to the Financial Times newspaper. Monday night on CNBC’s “Business Center,” Mr. Murdoch told Sen. McCain, “This is ridiculous. I can’t even believe you said this, because look at AOL Time Warner-we’re a fraction of the size of that. And indeed, look at CBS-Viacom.”
Mr. Murdoch told CNBC reporter Steve Frank: “There’s absolutely no regulation against what we’re doing. We’re minnows. If we get DirecTV, which we haven’t got, we’ll still be a minnow compared to AOL Time Warner.”
Mr. Murdoch also discussed his rivalry with CNN founder Ted Turner, whom he pitied for selling his cable and sports empire to Time Warner, which was acquired by AOL. “It’s very hard to sell out and keep control. It doesn’t matter what people tell you,” he said of Mr. Turner, who has the title of vice chairman and senior adviser at AOL Time Warner. “On the other hand, when you read interviews with him and you can see his frustrations, you can’t help but feel rather sorry for him.”
Mago chosen as FCC general counsel
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell named Jane Mago last week as general counsel of the agency. Ms. Mago has been serving as acting general counsel since January. Before that she was a deputy chief of the enforcement bureau.
She also previously served as a senior legal adviser to Mr. Powell and former regulator Rachelle Chong when they were commissioners. She began her career at the FCC in 1978 as a staff attorney in the Common Carrier Bureau.
Meanwhile, Mr. Powell named John Rogovin as deputy general counsel.