Skip to main content

Capital Watch

Capitol Idea: Roll Back Cap Repeal

Capitol Broadcasting is throwing its support behind bills to repeal the new 45% cap on household reach. Saying the FCC's relaxed media-ownership rules "eviscerate the public-interest standard," the station-group owner, which opposed raising the cap in comments filed before the FCC made its decision, is suggesting that the legislation 1) roll back the cap to 35%; 2) eliminate the UHF discount immediately; 3) grandfather companies over the cap at their current percentages; and 4) restrict the sale of those grandfathered clusters to small businesses, minorities or women after a minimum three-year holding period.

Burns Backs 35%

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, said last week that he backs legislation to return the national broadcast TV ownership cap to 35% of TV households. Speaking to reporters after a luncheon panel discussion at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention in Chicago, he predicted that legislation to retain the 35% limit would pass both his subcommittee and the full Commerce Committee. He declined to handicap its fate in the full Senate. Two weeks ago, the FCC raised the limit to 45%.

Tauzin Worried About XM

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) has sent a letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell expressing concern about XM Satellite Radio's ability to morph into a local service and asking the FCC to require XM to "fully disclose" any plans for localized programming.

XM has a network of repeaters—for which it is seeking permanent licenses—that allow it to retransmit its national service. But XM has the technology to localize that service, a prospect that troubles Tauzin as well as a number of traditional broadcasters. Citing XM's announcement of a plan to deliver local weather to "marine, aviation and emergency subscribers," Tauzin says that "it is clear that nothing now stops XM from taking this a step further and offering local programming in the terrestrial-radio market to hundreds of thousands of automobile subscribers." Tauzin points out that the commission has already indicated XM should be prohibited from delivering local programming. XM had not returned a call for comment at press time.

First Lady Praises, Prods

First Lady Laura Bush last week lauded broadcasters' efforts to educate children but also said there are not enough educational shows on TV. She encouraged her audience to do more, including helping educate parents better about the availability of educational shows.

Bush, a former teacher and librarian, received the NAB Education Foundation's Service to America Award for "exceptional leadership in the lives of Americans," particularly her Ready to Read, Ready to Learn initiative. The First Lady specifically praised cable's Court TV and noncommercial educational TV shows, including Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers
and Between the Lions. She then pointed out to the commercial-broadcaster audience that most of their educational children's shows are on weekends or in the morning and that more needs to be done in after-school hours during the week.

Family portrait

In Chicago to address the NCTA confab, FCC Chairman Michael Powell stopped by the A&E booth to spend a little quality time with his father, Secretary of State Colin Powell. If the elder Powell was a little stiff, it wasn't concern over weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell is made of sterner stuff; this one was wax, on hand to promote an upcoming Biography episode.