Rep. Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, wants everyone to read Reed Hundt's memoir, You Say You Want a Revolution. But definitely not because Tauzin's a fan of the former Federal Communications Commission chairman.
"In it, you will get a sense of the arrogance-the intense, amazing sense of power the FCC felt it had," the Louisiana Republican said at a recent hearing. "[Hundt] tells of how the [Telecommunications Act of] 1996, as the FCC read it, gave them so much power that he, Reed Hundt, became the most powerful person in the country, maybe the world, in communications." On that basis alone, Tauzin said, he is having second thoughts about the 1996 law. "Forty rulemakings, the power to interpret the act any way they wanted to-I am beginning to believe that [Sen. John] McCain [R-Ariz.] is right. Maybe for all of the good in the act, maybe we set up the FCC with too much power to regulate, too much power to stand in the way of competition." Again, Tauzin urged people only to read the book. "Don't buy it, for heaven's sake. Borrow my copy," Tauzin quipped.
- - - Time magazine says Texas Gov. George W. Bush
is seriously considering former Sen. Jack Danforth, a Missouri Republican, as his vice-presidential running mate on the GOP ticket. A problem for cable? Not necessarily. Danforth, you may recall, was a leading sponsor of the 1992 Cable Act, which became law over President Bush's veto-the only veto Bush failed to sustain in his four years in office. A cable-industry source said Danforth favored a much milder bill-a substitute sponsored by Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) that would have regulated basic rates but done nothing on upper-tier rates or program access. But Danforth's effort to reach a compromise, the source added, was killed by a White House and a National Cable Television Association leadership bent on pursuing a veto strategy. "[Danforth] is a moderate. He is not a flamethrower on cable," the source said.
- - - Censors at the World Wrestling Federation will have to work on their quick-draw technique. During last week's cablecast on USA, rapper Kid Rock and his band mates beat them to the kill switch, uttering the f-word before the overseers could bleep them. WWF spokes-man Jason Bernstein said the event was live on the East Coast with a seven-second delay on the feed. Fortunately, the rapper was featured late, so the audible obscenity was heard at a kid-unfriendly 10:45 p.m. The audio was edited before the program was available in other time zones, and Bernstein said the company received no calls from parents. As for the lapse, "We'll be closer to the buzzer next time," he said.
- - - EchoStar Communications Corp. chairman Charlie Ergen was immersed in tough negotiations to obtain retransmission consent for local-to-local TV signals last week, but not so deep that he couldn't surface long enough to drop a cool $5 million at a land auction. He'll be the trail boss of 1,000 acres near Telluride, Colo. A spokesman for the company said Ergen bought the land for ecological reasons, and not business-related reasons. Ergen wants the territory to remain undeveloped.
- - - So, you schlepped the Mr. T Chia Pet home from the TV Land booth, and now that all of your friends have seen it and had a good laugh, what's next? Months of dusting, or a quick profit on eBay? Well, don't plan your retirement based on a clamor for the item. It turns out that there's plenty of Mr. T junk already there, and the items aren't exactly burning up the boards. Last week's "hottest" Mr. T items: a Mr. T "Be Somebody" VHS videotape was actually bid up to $51, and there was spirited bidding for the Galoob Mr. T doll (with tools!). But at least the customized Chia would get more respect for the generic Chia guy. One hopeful seller had one for sale, and a wiseacre put in a bid for one cent. And it wasn't us ...