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I’m Trying! He’s Trying! Peter Pan Meets FCBA

As The Wire sat in the audience at the Federal Communications Bar Association Chairman’s Dinner saluting Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler in Washington last Thursday (Dec. 4), thoughts turned to possible alternative openings that would have played on the fact that the dinner was scheduled opposite Peter Pan Live! on NBC, or “Comcast/NBCU,” as they say in D.C.

Channeling all our Mad magazine parody energies, had The Wire been enlisted to write Wheeler’s opening skit, it would have gone something like this:

(Wheeler is introduced from the rostrum, pause, no Wheeler. Two children in nightgowns enter and look expectantly offstage. They speak.)

CHILD ONE: Look at that.

CHILD TWO: What? Where?

CHILD ONE: There, outside the comment window. Could it be? Yes, yes it is. (Pause.) It’s Chairman Wheeler in a really funny hat.

(Wheeler is wheeled in on a dolly, wearing a green Peter Pan hat and striking flying poses while two staffers in dark suits push him first this way, and that. He sings, to the tune of “I’m Flying.”)

WHEELER: I’m trying.

STAFFERS (in unison): He’s trying! Pondering endlessly.

WHEELER: Title II, Title III?

STAFFERS: He’s trying.

STAFFERS: He’s trying.

WHEELER: I’m trying. Comcast says it won’t block, what if that’s just a crock?

(Plush crocodile sails in from stage right.)

WHEELER: I’m trying. (Voice from offstage: “Clap if you believe the Bells.”)

WHEELER: And what if my road’s the wrong way to go?

STAFFERS: Your House of Cards loads painfully slow.

WHEELER: Oh, no! I’m trying.

STAFFERS: He’s trying. Look at him, way up there, in that big center chair.

WHEELER: How am I to know?

STAFFERS (confidently): You’re the CEO. Get on with this show.

WHEELER (exasperated): I’M TRYING! (The chairman takes the rostrum to thunderous applause while the ghost writer, who must not be named, beams in secret.)

Thought Leaders Wanted

Note to local cable-TV ad sellers: You might want to clip and save this item.

For retailers and small businesses, the medium is key to the messaging when it comes to pushing Washington to make online retailers pay the same tax applied to brick-and-mortar businesses.

In a long-shot attempt to get the lame duck session of Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, in combination with extending the moratorium on taxing Internet access — something cable operators definitely want to see happen — the National Retail Federation chose cable ads for its TV buy in Washington, D.C.

Why cable rather than local broadcast TV? “Cable is viewed more by Capitol Hill offices (the primary target audience) and other thought leaders/stakeholders,” a spokesperson for NRF said. That about sums it up.

Production Discredit in Md.

Maryland’s deal to keep production of Netflix’s D.C. political drama House of Cards, HBO’s Veep and other shows by increasing production tax credits did not rate with the Maryland General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services.

House of Cards production company Media Rights Capital (MRC) agreed to film the series’ third season in Maryland after the state sweetened its $4-million tax credit with another $7.5 million in grants from the General Assembly.

The Assembly will have to hold a hearing by Dec. 14 on the department’s report, which concluded that the production tax credit did not provide sustainable economic development, and that “as soon as a film production ends, all positive economic impacts cease too.”

It argues that of the $62.5 million in tax credits to be handed out between 2012 and 2016, only a fraction of that will come back in revenue. House of Cards and Veep account for all but $2.2 million of those total credits.

The report tentatively concludes that the state should let the credit expire in 2016 and invest in permanent rather than temporary jobs.

In the meantime, it also suggests that, to avoid a repeat of the House of Cards pullout threat and subsequent “sweetening,” the assembly might consider passing legislation recapturing the tax credit if a production leaves to film elsewhere.