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B&C Eye

In Powell's court

Congress gave the FCC a brief time out, but it did not resolve the marathon fight over when to auction TV spectrum to new users. Although the FCC indefinitely postponed the planned June 19 sale of frequencies used for chs. 52-59 after Congress cleared the way for it to do so, bidding for chs. 60-69 is still scheduled for Jan. 14.

Whether it remains so is a decision Congress has left for FCC Chairman Michael Powell. All Congress actually did was remove a legal deadline to complete the auction by September. That auction has already been moved back six times. Soon enough, the wireless industry will again lobby to delay bidding in order to outlaw early buyouts. Just as predictably, broadcasters expecting a windfall will fight to move ahead. At the FCC, one senior aide predicted a delay but said there has been no word from the chairman's office. Will Congress step in again? "It's not even on our radar screen," said an aide to Rep. Billy Tauzin.—B.M.

TLC topper

The Learning Channel may be without a top executive for a bit longer. Departing GM Jana Bennett announced in February she was leaving for the BBC. So why the hold-up replacing her? Most likely because incoming Discovery Networks U.S. boss Billy Campbell wants a say in picking her successor. Campbell, who is replacing Johnathan Rodgers, is just getting started, and the plum TLC post is likely high on his priority list. TLC is a bright spot in the Discovery family: TLC is averaging a healthy 0.9 in prime time, driven by cult hits like Junkyard Wars
and Trading Spaces

Hoffa briefs Bush

During a private meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House last week, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa (above) reiterated the union's opposition to the merger of EchoStar and DirecTV. A Teamsters spokesman confirmed the meeting, saying "they didn't get into a deep discussion." The Teamsters came out against the merger last month in a strongly worded statement. "The merger threatens competition and will adversely affect the blue-collar workers at both companies," the spokesman said.—P.A.

Rigas foil moves on

Now that Adelphia has filed for Chapter 11, the analyst who helped trigger its fall isn't around to watch. Merrill Lynch junk bond analyst Oren Cohen has jumped ship and started at hedge fund Trilogy Capital.

Cohen is best-known for raising questions about Adelphia's guarantee of loans to company Chairman John Rigas during a March conference call to discuss Adelphia's first-quarter earnings.

After more than half a dozen other analysts ignored the issue, Cohen asked Adelphia CFO Tim Rigas about an agate-type footnote mentioning up to $2.3 billion in "co-borrowings" with a private, Rigas-family company. Asked what assets backed up the loans, Rigas stumbled over a response and said he'd have to get back to Cohen. That triggered a steep stock decline, which triggered scrutiny by regulators and lenders, which uncovered a web of undisclosed insider dealings. Though Cohen received a fair amount of attention, Adelphia didn't have anything to do with his departure. He had been talking privately for months about getting away from the travel and pressure of Wall Street's "sell side" and finding something at a money manager. As for Adelphia's finally filing for Chapter 11, Cohen joked, "my work here is done."—J.M.H.