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Barton No Fan of Cable Must-Carry

Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who is expected to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in two weeks, is an opponent of mandatory cable carriage of local TV signals, analog or digital.

Three years ago, Barton told a Consumer Electronics Association audience in Las Vegas, "It's time that must-carry must die."

On broadcasters' latest demand for digital carriage, Barton declared: "There is no reason for must-carry in terms of digital signals. There is simply not."

Barton is unopposed in his effort to succeed Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) as chairman. Tauzin, who is expected to take a job as a drug-industry lobbyist, announced Tuesday that he would yield the chairmanship Feb. 16 and would not seek re-election in the fall.

In an impromptu session with reporters Wednesday, Barton said he wanted to secure the chairmanship before announcing his agenda. When asked about his must-carry views, Barton said he hadn't changed his mind.

"I am not going to change views based on where I sit on the committee. I'd probably be more open to hearing the other side now, you know. But that's still my basic view," he said.

In October 1992, Barton voted against the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, in which Congress permitted all 1,600 commercial- and public-TV stations to elect mandatory cable carriage.