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Cablers preempt broadcast lobbyists

To head off broadcasters' bid for lawmaker sympathy, cable industry executives Wednesday made the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Nick Davatzes, president of A&E Networks, said cable programmers must counter broadcasters' attempt to keep alive TV stations' demand for dual cable carriage of analog and digital signals. The cable execs also urged leaders of the Senate and House Commerce Committees to fend off broadcasters like Lowell "Bud" Paxson, who wants the government to force cable system to carry the six or so channels stations' can offer in the same spectrum space now allotted for one analog channel.

The FCC tentatively ruled in January against dual carriage in January and said local TV stations are entitled to carriage of only one digital channel. Broadcasters have asked the FCC to reconsider that decision and also are asking lawmaker to overrule the FCC too.

Cable programmers say many of their channels will be bumped off the air if broadcasters are given room for more than one digital channel. "This is an Oxygen issue for us," Davatzes said, referring the new women's channel that now facing an uphill battle to win carriage. Other making visits to lawmakers yesterday were Oxygen Media Chairman Gerry Laybourne, History Channel general manager Abbe Raven, Court TV President Dick Beahrs, and Discovery Channel President Judith McHale. - Bill McConnell