This Could Hasten Music-on-Demand

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At Charter Communications, the goal is a wired world. But at the home of Charter jefe Paul Allen, the favorite wire is the one with a rhythm guitar plugged into it. The gazillionaire, not content with buying up large quantities of cable systems, now has aspirations of a slot on the Billboard charts. He and his band, Grown Men, released their self-titled album last week. According to reports, the genesis of the album has a "Little Rascals" quality to it-you know, "Terry can sing, you've got some drums, Paul's got a groovy little studio. Let's make an album!" Ever mindful of broadband content, the album is available for sale at Mercata.com, an electronic-commerce company out of Seattle. Ever mindful of the bottom line, Allen is an investor in the commerce site.

- - - Little G.S. Communications Inc. in Martinsburg, W. Va., may have a problem negotiating a new franchise with Berkeley County. One of the commissioners there said the operator is responsible for something "unbelievably gruesome and grotesque," and he has stated for the record that he will oppose a new deal with the company. Gruesome? Grotesque? What is it, 30-minute on-hold times? Muddy footprints on the carpet? Signal outages during The Sopranos? No, commissioner John Wright is outraged over Howard Stern on E! Entertainment Television. Fellow regulators pointed out a small technicality in the law called the First Amendment, but Wright, a minister, called that a cop-out. He has vowed to do everything in his power to influence his peers to adopt his point of view. G.S. Communications' director of public relations declined to return calls for comment.

- - - Here's a case of putting your money where your heart and home is. Frank Brophy-who owns Shen-Heights Cable TV in Shenandoah, Pa., with his two brothers-believes he is here today because of a fast-acting police officer and a portable defibrillator. Brophy and his wife were performing with a line-dancing troupe in Lancaster in October when he suffered a heart attack. The officer, the first on the scene, rendered first aid and got Brophy's heart restarted with the electrical device. Armed with that first-hand knowledge of the life-saving potential of defibrillators, Brophy and his brothers, Martin and Tony, recently bought and donated a similar device to their hometown Shenandoah Borough Police Department. "We decided on it while Frankie was still in the hospital," Martin Brophy said. "If it at least saves one life, it's worth it."

- - - A thirsty, habit- conscious press corps and their PR counterparts will get their way after all.

Responding to popular demand (as reported here two weeks ago), the National Cable Television Association has agreed to reinstate the press cocktail party at the National Show. It will be held Monday, May 8, in a room convenient to the working press area. The bash starts at 5:30 p.m., and it will go for one hour or until the free booze runs out-whichever comes first. NCTA spokesman David Beckwith said the press welcome jazz brunch scheduled for Sunday, May 7, at 12:15 p.m. at Mulate's/ Zydeco Jeaux's is still going to happen. Double "le bon temps."

- - - Teledesic, the satellite venture backed by Craig McCaw and Bill Gates, may jump into the interactive-television race. Teledesic execs have said in the past that their service, dubbed "Internet in the Sky," would use hundreds of low-earth-orbiting satellites to offer consumers high-speed Internet service. But the company recently became an "adopter" of the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF), the industry organization that's forming standards for interactive television. Does Teledesic plan a TV strategy? "We will be able to support any application that travels through terrestrial-fiber networks," spokesman Roger Nyhus said. Nyhus added that he didn't know Teledesic had joined ATVEF. After several delays, the company now plans to launch in 2004.

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