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The Week That Was

Tauzin-Dingell passes, then stalls

The House of Representatives
last week passed 273-157 the Tauzin-Dingell bill, which would deregulate regional phone companies to encourage them to build high-speed fiber networks. No further action on the bill, sponsored by Reps. Billy Tauzin
(R-La.) and John Dingell
(D-Mich.), is expected this year, given powerful Senate opponents. In fact, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Fritz Hollings
(D-S.C.) called the bill "blasphemy."

It may not even be necessary. The FCC has proposed rules that could similarly deregulate the phone companies to spur broadband deployment.

Although, under Tauzin-Dingell, the cable industry could face competition from a huge and newly unfettered opponent, the NCTA
has not opposed the bill or asked that conditions be put on it. Even so, the industry is worried about how the government will treat cable and its rivals in the new digital world.

That's why phone-company competitors are so strongly opposed. Among them, though, is NCTA member company AT&T Broadband, wearing its telephone hardhat.

View Finder

will feature a Celebrity Boxing
special billed as "the battle of the bad girls," with "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher
taking on former Olympic skating slugger Tonya Harding. Also on the special: former Brady Bunch
star Barry Williams
vs. Danny Bonaduce, once part of TV's Partridge Family.
About a decade ago in Chicago, in a surreal pairing, Bonaduce beat Donny Osmond
in a boxing match. The network said the fights will be real, each lasting three rounds. A third celebrity-boxing pairing has yet to be announced. ...

Comedy Central
is the leading contender to buy off-net rights to NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien, according to industry executives. The two networks are in talks for second-window rights to Late Night,
but no deal has been done. NBC revealed its intentions to sell second-window rights to a cable net after signing O'Brien to a new four-year deal believed to be worth $8 million per year.

Comedy Central last week also unveiled plans to air a limited play of the first season of ABC's The Job
beginning March 4. ABC is accepting promotional time on Comedy instead of a licensing fee, according to sources. ...

is giving Barbara Walters
and company a chance to share their View
on cable. Beginning April 1, The View
will re-air on A&E a day after its ABC broadcast. ABC owns a 37.5% stake in A&E. ...

The big story last Thursday was supposed to be Survivor's return to CBS
and the debut of NBC's
new Thursday-night comedy Leap of Faith. CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
scored all-time high ratings at 9 p.m. ET/PT, attracting 28.8 million viewers, a 17.2 rating/ 26 share in households and a 10.5/24 in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen Media Research fast-national data.

Also on CBS, Survivor: Marquesas, the reality show's fourth installment, averaged 23 million viewers and an 8.9/22 in adults 18-49 for the hour, just about what the third Survivor

NBC's duo of Friends
and Leap of Faith
also had strong outings Thursday. Friends
attracted 27.5 million viewers and a 13.2/33 at 8 p.m. and Leap of Faith
debuted with 20.9 million and a 9.9/24 in adults 18-49 at 8:30 p.m. ...

Julia Louis-Dreyfus's new NBC sitcom, Watching Ellie,
debuted with an average 16.7 million viewers and a 7.1 rating/17 share in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen.

The company's line

Clear Channel
's fourth-quarter cash flow was down 46%, to $348 million, on an 11% drop in revenue, to $1.9 billion. The cash-flow number was well below earlier company guidance, analysts said. For the year, pro forma cash flow was down 22%, to $1.92 billion, on a 5% drop in revenue, to $8 billion. ...

The Washington Post
pulled a humorous TV spot that included the suggestion of a reporter in danger and references to a kidnapping. The spot, which ran several times on local stations, aired only days after the murder of kidnapped Wall Street Journal
reporter Daniel Pearl
was announced.

Eric Grant, director of community affairs for the Post
, said that, in response to a query from BROADCASTING & CABLE , the paper determined that the spot was inappropriate now but could return later. The "reporter" in the spot is revealed to be a critic explaining his reaction to an action movie he's reviewing.

A reason to celebrate

BET Nightly News debuted last week, beamed out from CBS Broadcast Center in New York at 11 p.m., and the premiere was worth a party. From left to right is anchor Jacque Reid, BET news and public affairs head Nina Henderson-Moore, CBS News chief Andrew Heyward, and Will Wright, executive producer of the newscast.