Cable Nets ‘Plugged’ Into D.C.

Cable programmers were invoked a lot in Washington, D.C., last week, and, no, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had not added them to his list of media types to be excoriated willy-nilly … yet.

But a former Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, did go so far as to send out a press release to let people know he was watching CNN.

“U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio issued the following statement after last night’s airing of CNN’s original series Declassified documentary on convicted Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes,” an email to reporters read. It then quoted Rubio:

“In recent months, there have been reports about a potential prisoner exchange between the U.S. and the Castro regime involving convicted Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes. After watching last night’s CNN documentary on Ana Belen Montes, I hope those who are contemplating making the mistake of releasing her, including anyone in the White House, realize how absurd an idea it is.”

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, during an Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) used some visual aids to make a point about protecting content and the set-top box debate. Those aids included a large set-top and a small smartphone, where he pointed out he was streaming an ESPN app even as he spoke, citing his ability to watch games live.

And then there was the Inside the (Borscht) Beltway exchange between former FCC chairman Reed Hundt and current Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly at a minority telecom policy conference, talking about what they might change about the FCC.

Hundt said he had suggested to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler that the musical Hamilton — Wheeler is a big musical fan — illustrated that commissioners should sing at open meetings, then added that John Oliver should moderate the proceedings. Wheeler had not warmed to either suggestion, Hundt indicated.

The John Oliver reference was to the host’s riff on HBO’s Last Week Tonight last year, when he likened Wheeler, as a former lobbyist for cable and wireless overseeing the net-neutrality rules that applied to both, to a dingo being asked to babysit.

O’Rielly chimed in that on that same episode, Oliver had labeled O’Rielly the most boring man in America. “Could you repeat that?” Hundt broke in. “I just fell asleep while you were talking.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.