News Briefs: Lawmakers Oppose Digital Must-Carry

Jun 12, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Two key lawmakers told the Federal Communications Commission last week that they oppose an agency proposal to require cable TV operators to carry all of the programming streams from digital broadcast channels. “Allowing each broadcaster to force video distributors to carry multiple streams of the broadcaster’s programming rather than letting consumer preferences and market forces operate is contrary to the market-oriented philosophy that has guided communications policy during the Bush administration,” said Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Fred Upton, R-Mich., in a June 7 letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. But Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, told reporters last week that he was fine with Mr. Martin’s plan to hold a vote on a multicast carriage rule-a proposal that is slated to be addressed by the agency June 21. Rep. Barton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while Rep. Upton chairs the House telecommunications subcommittee. The two panels provide House oversight of the FCC. But Sen. Stevens chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, which also has jurisdiction over the agency. The cable TV industry opposes a multicast carriage obligation that broadcasters say is needed to ensure cable subscribers get all of the programming streams offered on broadcasting’s new digital channels. -Doug Halonen

>House Votes to Help Telcos Get Into TV Business

The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted 321-101 to approve legislation to make it easier for phone companies to get into the pay TV business. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, would allow the phone companies to seek national franchises to roll out video services without having to go through the same local franchising process that cable TV operators went through to install their systems. The measure includes a provision that would allow cable companies to switch from local to national franchises after a phone company launches video services in their areas. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said in a statement that the bill “ensures that all providers compete on a level playing field.” The final version of the bill, which has the support of the Bush administration, excluded an amendment that would have ensured cable and phone providers don’t abuse their power over their Internet network to favor some Web content providers over others. -Doug Halonen

NBCU Irons Out `Megan’ Details

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has secured production space at the Tribune Broadcasting studios in Hollywood for its debuting talker, “The Megan Mullally Show,” in addition to completing some key creative hires. Veteran reality series director Ken Fuchs (“The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette”) has been added as director, while Jeff Hall (“Last Comic Standing”) will be set designer. NBCU announced “Megan” has been cleared in 92 percent of the U.S., with KTVK-TV in Phoenix, KARE-TV in Minneapolis, WISH-TV in Indianapolis and WBAL-TV in Baltimore all recently signing on to run the talk show in the fall. -Christopher Lisotta

ReelzChannel Signs Carriage Agreements

Start-up cable network Moviewatch has been renamed ReelzChannel and is set to announce carriage agreements with DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner, Dish Network and other operators for a planned Sept. 27 launch. ReelzChannel will chronicle the world of movies and expects an initial subscriber count of 28 million. It is owned by the privately held Hubbard Media Group.

Scott Grogin Promoted at Fox

Scott Grogin has been promoted to senior VP of corporate communications for the Fox Broadcasting Co. He will report to Joe Earley, Fox’s executive VP of publicity, corporate communications and creative services, who made the announcement last week. Mr. Grogin will continue to oversee business and communications strategies as well as serve as liaison to the trade, financial and business media. He will work with Fox Networks Group President and CEO Tony Vinciquerra and Fox Network President Ed Wilson on interdivisional and affiliate relations initiatives and will serve as communications liaison between the broadcast network and various Fox divisions. -Christopher Lisotta