Toasting John HendricksWith Cake and 3D Glasses

Discovery Communications’ 25th
anniversary celebrations peaked in high style
last Tuesday (April 6) with a gala in founder
John Hendricks’s honor in New York.

It being Discovery and 2010, the party naturally
included a giant branded cake from TLC’s
Cake Boss star, Buddy Valastro. And, of course,
there was a 3DTV demo of Discovery’s upcoming
channel, for which hundreds of batterypowered
glasses were handed out by sharpdressed
waiters at Cipriani on 42nd Street.

The cake included a spinning globe ridden
by a miniature Hendricks, with dinosaurs,
sharks and logos on the bottom. The 3D
demonstration starred, well, sharks and dinosaurs,
plus planets and tropical fish. Valastro
also prepared customized desserts for certain
dignitaries: The
ones for key Discovery
backers John Malone
and Bob Miron, for
example, featured a
satellite dish (for DirecTV)
and a Syracuse
Orange mascot (for
Miron’s alma mater).

The gala, hosted by
the Paley Center for
Media, was emceed by
NBC’s Brian Williams,
who ignored the Paley
writers’ jokes and paid
warm tributes to Walter
Cronkite (who appeared
in the form of
a 2005 taped testimonial), William S. Paley
and Discovery CEO David Zaslav, the former
longtime NBC executive.

Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s
Dirty Jobs, told a well-honed tale about how
he got fired as a QVC on-air host: It involved
an accidentally undignified presentation of a
collectible wind-up nun doll. Rowe then gave
Hendricks a one-of-a-kind “Indiana John” figure,
dressed in khaki and carrying a bullwhip,
made by Hasbro, Discovery’s partner in upcoming
kids’ channel The Hub.

Malone, of Liberty Media, and Miron, of
Bright House Networks, spoke of how proud
they were of Hendricks and the asset he had

Zaslav paid homage to his longt ime
mentor (“one of the great entrepreneurs
of the last 100 years”), as did Andrew
Hendricks, the son who was born seven
months before Discovery Channel.

As an encore, The Eagles’ Don Henley

Many longtime Discovery backers were
among the 500 or so in attendance. They included:
Fred Vierra (ex of Tele-Communications
Inc.), Ajit Dalvi (ex of Cox Communications),
and Harry Hagerty and Daniel Moore, two other
early investors in Discovery.

Discovery, which held its upfront presentation
in New York the following day, will
mark the launch anniversary internally on
the actual 1985 launch date, June 17.

Irony in the Court:BitTorrent Case HasSurprising Precedent

Calling it a “delicious irony,” a veteran TV lobbyist
was quick to point out that the court’s
ruling striking down the FCC’s BitTorrent decision rested in part on the so-called
broadcast flag case, which set limits on the
commission’s ancillary authority.

The flag case was a victory for fair-use fan Public
, which joined with the American
Library Association
to challenge the flag. But it
was also Public Knowledge that filed the BitTorrent
complaint at the FCC against Comcast.

So, a victory by one of the defenders of the
FCC’s authority proved that authority’s undoing
by the same court.

In the flag case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the D.C. Circuit concluded the commission did
not have ancillary authority to mandate broadcast
copy protection (the so-called “broadcast
flag”) in TV receivers.

In the BitTorrent case, the court said the
main problem with the FCC’s exercise of ancillary
authority is that it did not meet the second
part of a two-part test derived from the broadcast
flag decision — that “the regulations are
reasonably ancillary to the Commission’s effective
performance of its statutorily mandated

Pantelis Michalopoulos
of Steptoe & Johnson,
who argued the flag case in the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the ALA and
Public Knowledge, concedes the irony, but
says the BitTorrent case actually swept past
that decision into new territory.

“The broadcast flag case involved an attempt
by the FCC to regulate past the … receipt of
communications,” which was a mandate for flag
technology in the TV set. “Here we have nothing
like that. Here we have a commission attempt to
assert authority well before the point of receipt.”

Michalopoulos thinks that the FCC’s chances
of winning the case on appeal to the Supreme
Court are “less bleak” than usual.