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B&C Eye

Blind ambition

FCC-mandated video descriptions for the blind start this week on some broadcast and cable networks, even though industry trade groups are challenging the rule. Fox, Lifetime and USA will offer descriptors on some shows via secondary audio channels. Among the first might be Lifetime's Death in Small Doses
and Captive, airing this week. Fox has Bernie Mac, Boston Public, Malcolm in the Middle, The Simpsons
and Magic School Bus. USA has descriptions ready for Replicant
(April 2), Waterworld
(April 9) and Arlington Road
(April 28). Most TV stations and large cable systems must show 50 hours of programming with descriptions per quarter.—B.M.

You've Got (Cool) Mail...

Thomson Multimedia Broadcast Solutions is sending postcards (electronic and paper) touting the company's hottest introduction at the NAB show next week. Known as the Viper FilmStream camera, it can best be described as a true electronic version of a film camera, bringing film-like qualities like "grain" to the world of pixels. Along with eliminating the need to spend money on film stock, the camera permits color correction and other adjustments (like filters) in post-production.—K.K.

Full disclosure?

The Adelphia mystery is solved, in an Enron-esque sort of way. For years, the family of Chairman John Rigas has bought stock in Adelphia, jumping on every common stock or debt issue. That kept new investors from diluting the family's control. The Rigases' holding company, Highland, borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the buying, but the Rigases would never detail how they financed it. The surprise answer is that Adelphia is on the hook for Highland's borrowings, to the tune of $2.3 billion. That's news to stockholders, who had thought its debt was only $13.3 billion but are learning it's really $15.6 billion. Adelphia's stock dropped 20%. "They need to fully disclose the assets backing the debt," says Merrill Lynch's Oren Cohen. "We need to know."—J.H.

History lesson

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) says he'll still block the nomination of Jonathan Adelstein to the FCC, should the White House ever send the name up to the Senate. But in some FCC cases, it's an empty threat. Despite noise from Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Bill Kennard was eventually confirmed as chairman in 1997. On the other hand, President Clinton nominated then-FCC Common Carrier Bureau Chief Regina Keeney, but the GOP Senate let it expire. In the late 1980s, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) refused to hold hearings for attorney Susan Wing and FCC staffer Brad Holmes. And then there was FCC Commissioner Stephen Sharp, who managed to get confirmed in the early 1980s but lost his seat when Congress cut the number the commission from seven to five.—P.A.

Educating Data

PBS and Triveni Digital have been working on datacasting experiments, and the relationship is about to get cozier. At NAB, Triveni Digital will be given "preferred provider status" by PBS for products related to educational datacasting. That means PBS stations will likely turn to Triveni as they build DTV stations and offer digital services. Sixty-six stations are already on the air in digital. Included in the deal is Triveni Digital's ATSC StreamBridge for the ingest and processing of ATSC signals by headends.—K.K.