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Some more observations on the Senate Communications Subcommittee FCC oversight hearing Thursday (how's that for a catchy lead?)

Few Republicans weighed in. John Sununu said he had some tough questions, but said he had left them at home. He then lobbed a couple of softballs. John McCain, who revels in slamming cable and broadcasting on rates and spectrum, respectively, was not even there. Of course there was some grilling of General Casey going on elsewhere on the Hill that seemed to divide their attention, and there were several roll-call votes they had to pop out for.

John Kerry, who has never been afraid of the spotlight, showed up, then left without asking a question, leaving some shocked faces on Democratic staffers.

Then there was the issue of the Sinclair/Mediacom retrans fight, which was expected to come up but didn't. The co-chairmen of the committee had told FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to expect to be questioned on it, then neither questioned him on it.

Democrats took shot after shot at the industry and the FCC, which was expected, but still it seemed a rushed affair that lacked much of the anticipated drama.

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan, who also seemed a bit disappointed, suggested they reconvene another time, which will probably happen, though whether in another oversight hearing or in several hearings on separate issues remains to be seen.

In some ways, it was like expecting a five-course meal and getting a bucket of Buffalo wings.

By John Eggerton