More Proof Cable Has Gone to the Dogs


At last week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Internet music-file downloads — OK, the Napster Inc. hearing — Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) couldn't resist interjecting some bizarre cable bashing as Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti tried to make a point about compulsory copyright licensing. Here's how the exchange went: Valenti: "If you look at a cable system today, the marketplace works…" Leahy: "Be careful on that. They're monopolies, they give lousy service
and they don't. …You pay to have at least 20 preachers wearing bad hairpieces who sit on there and tell you that if you send money just to their company, you'll have salvation." We're not sure which cable networks Leahy had in mind, but Valenti didn't seem to want to know. "I have learned one thing in my long and some would say checkered career: I never debate with a senator," Mr. Hollywood said. Being from Vermont, Leahy should be the last senator to complain about cable. His state has the highest level of direct-broadcast satellite penetration in the country, with 40.6 percent of TV households (not just pay TV households) hooked up to a dish, according to SkyTRENDS.

...Last week, New York advertising agency Guarino Woodman — seeking to lure Court TV's business — dropped off a real body bag, containing a life-sized "body," unannounced. The macabre missive bore the message "Bag More Viewers." It was hard for employees to miss the item as they walked through the front door, and at first some wondered who was exiting feet first. The more curious actually unzipped the bag to look at the female "victim,"
who was clothed in a T-shirt with a personalized letter exhorting the reasons why Court TV should use the agency. "We called the agency and told them we were very happy with our present agency, Hampel Stefanides, and urged them to pick up this obviously expensive promotional item," said Court TV executive vice president of marketing Dan Levinson. "We brought it down to the lobby, which created another stir, but the agency missed the pickup." At presstime, poor, unloved Jane Doe remained at the network.

...Here's a name unlikely to show up on any California cable-event comp list: Bruce Henderson, a former San Diego City Councilman. Unfamiliar with him? He may be the reason the Western Show never sets up camp in San Diego
and he's working hard to scuttle another hometown deal that will cost Cox Cable San Diego money and prestige. The ever-litigious attorney was behind the lawsuits that kept the San Diego Convention Center from acting on major expansion plans that would have given it the extra square footage needed to attract big events like the Western Show. Those legal challenges have still not been fully resolved. His latest project: Scuttling the downtown ballpark planned for the San Diego Padres. Henderson opposes the use of taxpayer money for what he views to be commercial purposes. He's filed 12 lawsuits regarding the ballpark, which has held up a needed municipal bond offering. The Padres' owners have said publicly that they'll move the team if the ballpark is blocked. That will put the kibosh on a 10-year cablecasting deal struck between and Cox last week.

... Michael Benjamin, an employee of Adelphia Communications Corp.'s Ontario, Calif., system, is a canine champion to customer Clarissa Lopez. The woman had scoured local animal shelters for her pet dog, Fifi, to no avail. But one day, she spotted her pooch while watching cable. As it turns out, the cable guy spotted the dog wandering on a major thoroughfare.
Benjamin corralled Fifi, took it home for a bath, then sheltered it in the cable system's back lot. Employees took a digital picture of the four-footed refugee, posted it on the community channel and, voila! Reunion. Lopez called Benjamin her "number one rescuer." All together now

… Aww!

...Before they reached the Australian Outback, a couple of this year's (least-liked) Survivor competitors briefly inhabited cable land.
The "ever-popular" Jerri Manthey — who finally was voted off two weeks ago — had a bit part in Showtime's That Championship Season, according to the new People Extra
magazine, "All About Survivor." And, while in college a couple of years ago, vegetarian Kimmi Kappenberg was a Cable News Network intern at the United Nations.

... It's a breeze being FCC chairman — that is, until you have to make hard decisions bound to anger one well-heeled special interest or another. New FCC chairman Michael Powell, making his first appearance last Thursday before the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, won high praise from Republicans and Democrats for his opening statement, a word symphony that promised reform and reorganization, efficiency and enforcement, fairness and finality.
"I almost wanted to applaud after your statement," said House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who wants Powell to unleash the Baby Bells. How about this from Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Ohio)? "I just hope that my colleagues would agree with me that this has been an absolutely virtuoso performance." Before she asked Powell to make sure a new Univision TV tower in Los Angeles didn't block signals from the existing ABC tower atop Mount Wilson, Rep. Jane Harmon (R-Ca.) gushed: "If you bring those skills to reforming the FCC, the rest of the federal government should come next." And then there was Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who was so ticked at former FCC chairman William Kennard — a fellow Democrat, by the way — that he wanted to see the agency's headquarters torched. Dingell announced that Powell's blueprint was "right on the money." If history holds, six months from now it's a good bet that Powell won't be able to go to Capitol Hill without first going to his father, Secretary of State Colin Powell, for a grant of diplomatic immunity.