More Fun with Ted and History Lessons

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Ted Turner was his usual voluble self at the National Cable Television Co-Op's meeting in Newport last week, where the yachtsman was keynote speaker. Accompanied by longtime female friend Frederique D'Arragon, Turner commiserated with the small operators about how competition from direct-broadcast satellite has squeezed the business, compared to the good old days. "We really didn't have a lot of competition," Turner told the luncheon. "People took what we had and they liked it. We had one package. You don't like it, you don't have to take it. Buy yourself a C-band dish for 20,000 bucks." Turner then marveled at how the cable industry convinced consumers to pay $30 a month for TV that was once free. "If it hadn't been for the competition and rate regulation, we could have gotten $40 a month," Turner told the luncheon. "We could have gotten more. That's what those generals say about the Indian wars, we should have killed them all when we had the chance. Then they wouldn't be taking our money back with all those casinos." Realizing he had once again gone over the top, Turner said: "That was a joke. If there are members of the press here, please delete that. I officially apologize." Sorry Ted. You're simply irresistible.

- - - Speaking of Teds: Cable analyst Ted Henderson is not only the new CEO of Golf Tek-he's also a client. Henderson, who worked on the financial side at Jones Intercable Inc. for 12 years before joining Englewood, Colo.-based Janco Partners in 1996, has agreed to become CEO of Golf Tek, an Englewood-based golf-instruction company with nine retail stores across the country. He starts Aug. 14. The 14- to 18-handicap duffer said he was sold on the company after a Golf Tek pro quickly enhanced his game. "In one lesson they fixed something that I haven't been able to fix in 20 years," Henderson said. The 4-year-old company has retail centers in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Denver. Ever the cable guy, Henderson noted last week that the Golf Tek method just screams interactivity.

- - - The recent Federal Communications Commission forum on the America Online Inc.-Time Warner Inc. merger included a little street theater. About a dozen protestors showed up on the FCC's sidewalk to display placards and shout for immediate access to cable broadband facilities. "What do we want? Free the Web. When do we want it? Now!" went one refrain. The unsophisticated signs, some of which included unflattering images of FCC chairman William Kennard, said things like "Democracy Needs Infodiversity" and "People Before Corporations." Only a few of the protestors, organized by the Consumer Project on Technology, would offer their identities. One said she was a Stanford Law School student; another described himself as a journalist. Limos carrying AOL chairman Steve Case and Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin cruised by unmolested. On his way into the FCC, Case was asked about the protest. "God bless America," he said.

- - - TeleTimes is a bimonthly magazine published by the United States Telecom Association, the Washington, D.C., lobbying arm of the Baby Bells and hundreds of small phone companies. Naturally, most every issue extols USTA members, praises lawmakers and regulators who agree with the industry and includes question-and-answer sessions with industry leaders who answer such tough questions as: "How did you get started in this business?" and "Where do you see the company going?" The May/June issue offered something a little different: an interview with Robert Knowling, president and CEO of Covad Communications Co., a digital-subscriber line provider that battles Bells all over the country. Knowling served up some zingers. "Most of the [local phone companies] have a history of delivering the lines we need very late or not at all-even though we pay an enormous amount of money to lease those lines," he said. At another point, he said he would fight Baby Bell long-distance applications "as long as [the phone companies are] consistently missing installation dates, stalling on line sharing, or participating in any other unfair trade practices." It goes on. So how did this interview every see the light of day? USTA spokeswoman Michelle Tober said the magazine wanted to give Knowling a forum because he had spoken at USTA's Supercom Convention. "It was hard-hitting," she conceded. "It's hard to believe we ran it."

- - - As many pundits packed their bags for last week's Republican convention in Philadelphia, Geraldo Rivera was sailing. A Wire correspondent spotted the CNBC host at Champlain's marina on Block Island, R.I., the weekend before the convention. It was hard to miss Geraldo, who pulled into the dock (with the help of a crew) on his 70-foot ketch Voyager-the biggest sailboat at the marina. An avid sailor, Geraldo wisely departed on Sunday, and avoided the 15-foot swells the Wire correspondent hit on the trip back to New York on Monday-in a much smaller boat.

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