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Capital Watch

Clear Channel Beefs Up in D.C.

Clear Channel has added two Capitol Hill staffers to its new Washington lobbying offices. Robert Fisher, a Republican telecommunications aide with the Senate Commerce Committee, and Brendan Kelsay, a Democratic telecom aide with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will join the company March 3.

Fisher's hiring gives the company some much-needed GOP representation and a conduit for contacts with the majority party. "We couldn't be more thrilled they're joining our team," said Andrew Levin, who heads Clear Channel's Washington office. Levin, a former aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), became Clear Channel's first in-house lobbyist when he joined the company in December.

ENG Plan by September

Just how much money broadcasters will be entitled to receive for relinquishing backhaul, or electronic-newsgathering, spectrum to satellite communications companies will be outlined before Sept. 6, when mandatory negotiations between the two industries expire.

The FCC said as much in a ruling last week. Backhaul is located on the 2GHz swath of spectrum and is used to transmit news and sports from remote locations back to studios. The FCC is requiring broadcasters to relinquish 35 MHz of the band and will shrink the size of ENG channels. Broadcasters are entitled to compensation if they have to buy new equipment, but negotiations over specifics have dragged on since summer 2000.

Probation for Pirate

An Orlando, Fla., pirate DJ who broadcast under the on-air name "Copafeel" has been sentenced to 18 months probation, including four months of home detention, the FCC said last week. The pirate operated War 94, an unlicensed hip-hop station. He pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of unlicensed operation. His given name is Benjamin Leroy Carter. The native of Haiti also goes by the name Malik Abdul.

Lawmakers Push Broadband Tax Breaks

Reps. Philip English (R-Pa.) and Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) have reintroduced a bill to give tax breaks to companies that build broadband distribution facilities in rural and underserved areas. The Broadband Internet Access Act of 2003 would provide a 10% tax credit to companies that provide "current-generation" facilities capable of delivering at least 1.5 million bits per second to a subscriber. A 20% credit would be provided to companies that construct "next-generation" networks capable of delivering 22 million bits per second.

Bush Rallies 'Armies of Compassion'

A martial-sounding President George W. Bush last week praised religious broadcasters for bringing "words of truth, comfort and encouragement into millions of homes," saying, "America is grateful."

In a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn., Bush said America's "deep and diverse" beliefs were one of the country's strengths. "In scripture, God commands us to reach out to those who are different and to reconcile with each other." That and a couple of explicit Muslim references were as close as the speech came to addressing criticisms over words of Islam exclusion that have been uttered by some religious broadcasters. The references included citing the crescent as one of the symbols that should not be discriminated against and talking of not denying federal assistance to certain Christian, Muslim or Jewish schools.

Roberts to be honored by NAB

ABC chief congressional analyst Cokie Roberts will receive NAB's Distinguished Service Award April 7 during its annual convention in Las Vegas. Roberts, who is also an analyst for NPR, is no stranger to the winner's circle. Her other accolades include an Edward R. Murrow and an Emmy. She has been with ABC since 1988 and before that contributed to the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.