News Briefs

Mar 31, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell said last week that the agency has tentatively set June 2 as the date for a final vote on proposals to ax or relax its media ownership rules.
Three Republican lawmakers-Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Susan Collins, R-Maine-recently urged the agency to hold off, putting out the precise changes contemplated for a new round of comment.
But in a Q&A session Thursday after a speech at a luncheon sponsored by the Media Institute in Washington, Mr. Powell said he is reluctant to delay resolution of the proceedings. “I’m … not inclined to do it just for the sake of doing it,” he said. “To be perfectly candid, I think there are those who just simply want to delay the proceeding because they do not support the change.”
Mr. Powell also said he is considering backing a federal advisory committee to recommend ways the government can stimulate diversity of media ownership.
Watchdogs Chasing Comcast
Watchdog groups asked the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission last week to investigate whether Comcast and other cable TV companies are running afoul of antitrust laws by offering sharp discounts to high-speed Internet customers who subscribe to cable.
In a March 26 letter to the federal agencies, Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America said they are particularly concerned that Comcast has been raising the monthly fee for high-speed Internet service from about $46 to $60 for customers in some markets unless they also sign up for the company’s cable TV.
Sarah Eder, a Comcast spokesperson, said the company’s discounts and pricing polices conform to industry norms. “It’s an incentive for customers to receive discounts for receiving multiple services from the same company,” Ms. Eder said.
Added Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, “Offering discounts to customers who buy multiple products or services from a company is pro-consumer and very common in today’s highly competitive telecommunications marketplace.”
DTV Retransmission Fee Divide
A proposal by Forrester Research intended to help spur HDTV’s rollout by requiring cable TV operators to pay for retransmitting broadcast DTV signals received enthusiastic reviews from broadcasters last week.
“The research speaks for itself and validates the high-quality programming that broadcasters bring to cable,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.
But Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, made clear that the cable industry will fight the initiative. “To demand a fee of cable operators for free over-the-air programming is unreasonable,” Mr. Dietz said.
In the proposal at issue, Forrester suggests that cable operators charge their customers an extra $10 per month for HDTV, then give half to local TV stations. The report also says that requiring operators to carry both analog and the broadcaster’s full digital signal “makes public policy sense.”
Brady to Host Daytime Emmys
Wayne Brady has been named host of The 30th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast Friday, May 16. The awards will air live on ABC from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) from Radio City Music Hall. Mr. Brady is a nominee for The Wayne Brady Show.