Ailing Tauzin a Surprise National Show Arrival

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New Orleans -- Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) put aside his battle against cancer Monday to make a surprise appearance at the National Show's open session here, hitting the stage to welcome cable's top officials to his home state.

Tauzin, who is retiring from Congress later this year, surrendered the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this year to undergo surgery for intestinal cancer, followed by radiation and chemotherapy treatments at a Washington, D.C.-area hospital.

He indicated that cable-industry officials -- with whom he hasn’t always agreed over the years -- reached out to him with their support and prayers when word spread of his illness.

"I've learned in the past couple of months what true friends I have in this audience," said Tauzin, who used the National Show to make his first public appearance since late last year. He added that he had to stop by the confab after his son's wedding last weekend brought him to New Orleans.

While cable is facing potentially tough legislation on a la carte pricing, Tauzin said he hadn't changed his mind that cable deregulation, combined with some move to open cable to more competition, was the right decision.

"I think Congress was so correct when in the 1980s, we made the decision to begin the deregulation of cable. I think we were so correct in the ‘90s when we completed that deregulation," he said.

Tauzin also addressed a hot-button topic -- content -- and indicated that cable's commitment to quality programming would outrun the current indecency debate in Congress.

"Keep up the good work you do in defining our culture and in reaching out these services to Americans," Tauzin said. "Speech sometimes makes us uncomfortable, but if speech in America doesn't occasionally make some of us uncomfortable, it wouldn't truly be free speech."

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