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B&C Eye

Price of success

Northpoint's wait for FCC licenses may soon be over, but rumor is, it won't be getting the result it wanted. The FCC is expected to give Northpoint, headed by Sophia Collier (above), the opportunity to use satellite spectrum to offer its wireless multichannel and data services, but that opportunity, sources say, will come in the form of an FCC auction. Northpoint argued that it should get the licenses for free because other users of satellite spectrum had. One former Capitol Hill staffer points out that times have changed and Congress expects the FCC to make money on new licenses. The FCC is expected to release its decision this month.—P.A.

'Accordion to sources'

If you practice your accordion real hard, news networks just might come calling. It worked for comedian/news junkie Barry Mitchell, who performs parodies on CNN's NewsNight With Aaron Brown.

Mitchell debuted a decade ago on ABC's quirky overnight World News Now. Then-anchor/producer duo Brown and David Bohrman—together again at CNN—asked viewers to send in video editorials. The payment: WNN
coffee mugs. After collecting a few mugs, Mitchell became an on-air regular, even penning the newscast's unofficial theme, the
"World News Now

He's still on World News Now, although he has moved on from slapstick accordion player to sometime reporter chasing bizarre stories. NewsNight
producers called Mitchell last Tuesday to weigh in on the Koppel/Letterman drama. (We can't wait for the Susan Swain parody, Lady of C-Span.) As for the CNN brass reaction, "some of them probably roll their eyes and groan," says Bohrman.—A.R.

Broadband broadcasters

A Mountain View, Calif., company wants to help broadcasters launch a digital service over today's analog spectrum. The FCC is expected to approve Dotcast's proposal. Broadcasters will transmit movie trailers, music, games and information —using subcarrier portions of the vertical blanking interval—to viewers with decoder boxes. Dotcast wants to take advantage of a 1996 rule allowing broadcasters to add FCC-certified ancillary transmission services. The only other company to get that permission was Microsoft (for a never-implemented gaming technology). Dotcast says its system can transmit 4.7 Mb/s, well above the FCC's definition for broadband. Once a broadcaster goes digital, Dotcast can use a station's multiplexing capability to more than double datacast transmission rates. Dotcast says it has raised $100 million and can reach a 200-station, nationwide footprint through deals with Paxson, ABC and National Datacast, a for-profit PBS subsidiary.—B.M.

Team ABC

Look for ABC to announce a major restructuring of its network ad-sales unit. A source says the plan is to address consolidation on the agency and client side. The unit is setting up teams, assigning each to a different big ad agency. "The idea is to make the sales effort less daypart-centric and more focused on the needs of individual clients," the source said. Separately, Laura Nathanson, executive VP, national sales, ABC-TV, is shifting roles. She'll oversee sales for ABC Family and the Disney Kids Network, which is being folded into the ABC Family sales unit.—S.M.

Give Higgins his notebook

Broadcasting & Cable's cantankerous cable editor, John M. Higgins, suffered a heart attack last week while attending Nickelodeon's upfront presentation, but it didn't exactly stop him from working.

Patricia Kollappallil, director of trade publicity at Lifetime TV and Higgins's former neighbor, stayed with his wife, Debbie, at St. Vincent's Hospital in the first hours after the incident. The moment he was wheeled out of intensive care and saw Kollappallil, the still-groggy Higgins asked, "So who's going to replace Dawn Tarnofsky?" (She was Lifetime's programming chief until bolting to UPN.)—P.J.B.