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Capital Watch

Disney Open to Tech Solution

Disney last week indicated its willingness to explore technological solutions to protecting the digital distribution of its content, rather than insisting, as has it historically done, on persuading Congress to legislate a copyright mandate. Why? "To be blunt, if we don't distribute our products to consumers in a timely manner, the pirates will do it for us," said Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. "Many are paralyzed by the fear of digital piracy," he said in accepting the NAB's Hall of Fame Award for The Wonderful World of Disney.
"We are mindful of the perils of piracy, but we will not let fear keep us from innovating how our product is distributed."

Disney has spent much of the last two years working to get the government to intervene to force an industry solution that Congress could then write into law. But the bill that supported that notion, sponsored by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), stirred up a hornet's nest among public-interest groups and technology companies and didn't make much progress. It hasn't been reintroduced this Congress, and industry sources say that, without strong Disney support, it is unlikely to resurface.

War-Coverage Conundrum

What does Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a former broadcaster and a member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, think about TV's coverage of the war in Iraq? Depends on whether you ask Paxson Communications chief Bud Paxson or Hubbard Broadcasting head Stan Hubbard. Speaking at a free-wheeling NAB panel session last week, they were asked what they thought of the coverage. Paxson answered by noting that he had had cocktails with Burns and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who said that they get briefed by the Pentagon "every morning at 9 a.m." As a result, he said, Burns feels that watching the coverage on TV "is a waste of time." Hubbard countered that he had heard Burns at an NAB breakfast meeting offer nothing but praise for the coverage. "The TV industry should be congratulated for all this wonderful coverage," Hubbard recalled Burns saying. For his part, Hubbard called the coverage "fantastic."

Orlando Stock Rises

In the see-saw battle to replace former NAB Executive VP Jim May, John Orlando, acting NAB chief of government relations, was on the way up last week, particularly among industry types gathered for the NAB convention in Las Vegas. Industry buzz has been that Orlando's standing as a Democrat could hurt him, but sources say his deft handling of political issues and general popularity on Capitol Hill make up for the fact that he's a Democrat when the White House and Congress are run by Republicans. Stay tuned.

FCC Tech Type Gets Stripe

Jim Schlichting has been named deputy chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology. Previously, he was deputy chief of its Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and has been an attorney at the commission since 1985.

Wright visits D.C.

According to a source, NBC Chairman Bob Wright was in Washington recently, meeting with FCC Chairman Michael Powell, FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin and Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) to make the case for relaxing national and local media-ownership rules. Wright's visit to the commission came about the same time as a letter from Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and others asking that the FCC modify the rules and urging the FCC to stick to its June timetable, a point also made by Wright. He is said to feel that the issue is no longer one of economics but of the politics of lining up three votes for loosening the regs, which he believes can be done.