BC Beat

Brokaw's Summer of Love . . . and Haight

In his four-plus decades as a newsman, Tom Brokaw has kept his cool while reporting in hostile environments. But a wild bunch of hippies he encountered 40 years ago did ruffle the unflappable former Nightly News anchor.

In his new book Boom!: Voices of the Sixties (Random House), Brokaw recounts a 1967 visit to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. With his hair "fraternity-boy short," Brokaw taxied to the hippie haven, where he encountered "a movable mass of hippies in tie-dyed shirts, peasant skirts, caftans, sandals, long hair, love beads, and backpacks."

He found himself "in a twilight zone between the ordered world of a young NBC News reporter, married with children, and the strange new universe of flower children."

"Everyone looked either completely stoned or well on their way," he writes. One teen girl offered Brokaw some hashish (he says he said no), then explained how she'd slept with every member of The Byrds.

Finding it all a bit libertine for his heartland sensibilities, Brokaw retired to the posh Fairmont Hotel, where, he recalls, Ella Fitzgerald was performing. Unlike the flower children, he writes, "Ella I understood."

Checking in last week from his book tour, Brokaw says he took the reefer madness in stride. "The kids were very welcoming—peace and love and all that," he e-mailed. "And the music drove the spirit of the occasion."

"Log On, Opt In, Web Out"

Americans can get nostalgia-crazy: The '90s were the '70s after all. But 1968 stands apart, a mix of war and strife, psychedelia and bell-bottoms. Brokaw takes History Channel down the rabbit hole with the documentary 1968 With Tom Brokaw, premiering Dec. 9.

In response, History has unveiled a "mind-bending promotion" that updates the old "tune in, turn on, drop out" slogan with "log on, opt in and Web out!"

As part of this push, viewers can visit Powerof68.com to share videos and photos, play games and win prizes like a TiVo HD or a trip to Las Vegas to see Cirque de Soleil's Beatles-inspired performance "Love."

For anyone brave enough to picture themselves in a fringe vest, the "Lady Madonna's Closet" game turns you into a '60s fashion plate. The "Where Were You?" feature invites visitors to submit memories tied to events like the RFK assassination or the signing of the Civil Rights Act. (We saw a number of duplicate submissions on the site—maybe those boomers haven't quite gotten the hang of the whole Web thing.)

At least one executive at History's parent, A&E Television Networks, is getting in on the fun: President/CEO Abbe Raven submitted vintage snaps. To see more photos of the young Ms. Raven, check out the BC Beat blog at broadcastingcable.com.

Hot Numbers

When FCC Chairman Kevin Martin revealed last month that he believed the cable industry had surpassed the 70/70 threshold, Dan Warren perked up: It was data from his Warren Communications that Martin was relying on.

"Our reporter was writing a story about the chairman's draft," says Warren, whose company publishes news and information on the TV, telecom and electronics industries. The company realized "it was based heavily, if not exclusively, on our data."

According to Warren, the FCC called Michael Taliaferro, the editor of Warren's TV and Cable Fact Book, last summer looking for some raw data on the cable industry but gave no indication of how it would be used.

Taliaferro supplied two metrics for cable systems with 36 channels or more: the total number of basic subscribers, at 67.16 million, and the total number of homes passed, at 94.18 million. That amounts roughly to a 71% penetration rate.

Other industry observers calculate lower penetration rates, but Warren, which polls every cable system in the nation every year, stands by its data.

But while the data can be useful for modeling and extrapolation, Dan Warren says he would have issued some caveats to the FCC had the company known the intended use. Since some cable systems did not respond to the survey, the data aren't complete—indeed, they could be lower than the actual numbers. For the commission to draw an accurate conclusion about penetration, Warren explains, it would have to "fill in the blanks."

With Michael Malone, Anne Becker and Jonathan Hemingway