Christmas in Washington

Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer exchanged pleasantries while across the room Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell good-naturedly played parental pack-mule, carrying coats and bags while a balloon-headressed daughter had hands free for goodies.

It was Christmas in Washington, the annual TNT holiday special/Christmas party at Washington’s National Building Museum. This year the non-Washington stars included Kristen Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies and West Wing), Julianne Hough (Dancing With the Stars),  dynamite a capella group Straight No Chaser and hosts for the past few years, Dr, Phil and his wife.

For the first time in years, the President was not in attendance, instead ducking shoes over in Baghdad. The First

Lady and Vice President Dick Cheney were there, as well as the usual assortment of legislators, administration officials and countless offspring feasting on roast beast and crab cakes and ham and turkey and toasted marshmallow-covered chocolate on a stick.

THe venue is a spectacular one, with soaring ceilings and huge interior spaces. That’s because the first floor was originally for horses, left their while their owners collected their Civil War pensions on the floors above.

And speaking of Civil Wars, the FCC commissioners had come off an interesting week that saw a late Friday cancellation of their Dec. 18 meeting when FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and the other commissioners could not come to a consensus on how to move forward.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin suggested in a statement that he could not get the votes on various items after pressure from the Hill not to tackle anything but DTV and items with statutory deadlines, though several of the items on the agenda fit that description.

One source suggested that a vote on the DTV-related items on the agenda–there were a couple–would have been possible, and pointed out that the FCC will have to hold some kind of December meeting given that part of its charter is at least one monthly public meeting.

But another source suggested it was "pens down," with the Democrats not willing to sign on to anything. One of the DTV-

related items that had been scheduled was a proposed fines for multichannel video providers who did not put DTV education information in their bill-stuffers. There are said to be some differences among the commissioners about those.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.