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MSOs Will Serve Dems Home Cooking in L.A.

7/16/2000 8:00 PM Eastern

Los Angeles-The Democrats will converge here next month for their national convention. In preparation, cable operators are coming together to form a temporary interconnect with the hope of bringing the most complete coverage of the convention available on any medium.

Despite recent consolidation and system clustering, cable operations here are still fractionalized. The city's largest operators are Adelphia Communications Corp., AT & T Broadband and Time Warner Cable.

Further, with a gathering as large as the Democratic National Convention, convention-goers will be housed outside of the city, in communities served by Charter Communications Inc., among others.

The cable companies are working out the technical and regulatory barriers to a plan to run gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democrats' meeting on local-origination channels.

Adelphia is taking the lead on the project: Its Los Angeles system (formerly owned by Century Communications Corp.) has a long history of politically focused local programming.

Those shows, hosted by vice president of operations for Southern California Bill Rosendahl, are already addressing the impact on the community of this high-profile and potentially contentious convention.

Los Angeles is in the midst of a police-misconduct scandal with racial overtones. And the response to violence that followed the Los Angeles Lakers' National Basketball Association championship has been roundly criticized.

Eager to talk about something more pleasant, city executives have been guests on Rosendahl's show to discuss their roles in convention management. They include Joe Hicks, executive director of the city's human-relations commission, which will place monitors on the city streets to observe interaction between police and demonstrators.

"Honoring the First Amendment while avoiding violence-that has been topic No. 1 in the discussion," Rosendahl said. "We have a hope of playing a role in improving understanding."

Yet to come: a forum discussion on the convention and its impact on the social problems of Los Angeles.

The feed operators hope to interconnect will come from various sources. Adelphia plans to begin coverage the Sunday before the convention, filming the so-called Shadow Convention from Independence Hall. Featured speakers there will include Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), political commentator Arianna Huffington and actor-producer Warren Beatty.

That material will be edited for cablecast Monday morning, before the DNC gets into gear.

Then, the operators intend to carry coverage of the convention, produced by the Democratic Party and left unedited. Convention and counterconvention coverage will be programmed eight to 10 hours per day during the meeting.

Although the voices will certainly be partisan, they should be balanced when the operators avail themselves of the satellite feed from August's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Comcast Corp.'s news operation, CN8: The Comcast Network, is handling that task.

The AT & T-MediaOne Group Inc. cluster in Los Angeles expects to carry coverage on its dedicated government channel. But that is not yet final, spokeswoman Gisselle Acevedo-Franco said.

The operator has received permission from the city's Information Technology Agency for that plan, but it was still awaiting approval from Mayor Richard Riordan's office before deviating from required local government coverage.

Charter's participation would extend coverage to Burbank, Pasadena and other suburbs.

"As a public service, the more information we can provide on how politics work, the better," Rosendahl said.

In his role as chairman of California Channel, the operator-supported state public-affairs feed, Rosendahl is also lobbying for distribution of convention coverage throughout the state.

A poll is currently being conducted of the channel's board, and Rosendahl is optimistic that systems will approve the Democratic coverage.

It won't be all work for local Adelphia executives. The system will also underwrite a welcoming dinner at the city's Museum of Natural History for delegates from Pennsylvania, the MSO's corporate home state.

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