Through the Wire


Contributors: Ted Hearn, Steve Donohue.

Hey, Postman — That’s Not My Stash!

The postal carrier gave one Wire correspondent the fisheye last week as he delivered a brown-paper box prominently labeled “Reefer Madness.”

Resisting the impulse to giggle maniacally and mumble something about scarfing some Twinkies, the Wire editor got to wondering. Before Showtime flooded the mails with dozens of boxes emblazoned with a drug reference, did they have to alert the folks down at the post office — who are humorless nowadays — about the contents?

After all, it contained a “paraphernalia box” stuffed with munchies, allusions to “weed” and the DVD of the upcoming musical version of the 1936 camp classic anti-drug film.

“No, the rules of the post office are that you can’t use profanity, never use curse words. And no overt sexuality,” said Richard Licata, Showtime’s executive vice president of corporate communications.

They checked, because they wanted their “fun, funny tribute” to the smoke-hazed days of the ’60s to get through to the target audience. You know, folks who might have dabbled with doobies back then, but are now more likely to ingest Lipitor than Maui Wowie.

“It’s one way to try to get people to watch [the musical] in a crowded TV landscape,” he said.

Vonage: It’s Our Way Or the Highway, 'MCN’

Vonage Holdings Corp. is making a fuss these days about phone and cable companies blocking its voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) service. The Federal Communications Commission has fined one small telco, but so far no action has been taken against a cable company.

Less well-publicized is Vonage’s policy of blocking reporters with the temerity to pose “inappropriate” questions to Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron. Several months ago (we don’t remember the exact date) — at a Washington D.C., telecom forum at which Citron was a panelist — a reporter from MCN stood up and asked Citron about his history with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and its potential impact on Vonage’s future, operational and commercial. Citron brushed off the question.

Some background: A decade ago, Citron was CEO of Datek Online Holdings, an electronic stock-trading service for individual investors. The SEC investigated Citron and other Datek officials for stock manipulation in order to make themselves millions of dollars.

In 2003, the SEC fined Citron $22.5 million, one of the largest in SEC history, according to The New York Times. Citron was forced to resign from Datek and banned from the securities industry, though he admitted no wrongdoing.

Vonage spokeswoman Brooke Schulz said she isn’t talking to the Multichannel News reporter now “because [he] asked a question that was inappropriate of our CEO a while ago.”

Why was the question inappropriate? “[He] asked him about his background at a conference that was inappropriate and not well suited to the fora [sic],” she added.

Evidently, Citron himself imposed the ban. “It came down from on high that we are not allowed to talk to [him] anymore,” she said. When might Vonage end the boycott? “It’s a decision that’s constantly up for review, but not at this time,” Schulz said.

Bottom line: It’s inappropriate to block Vonage, but totally appropriate for Vonage to block a reporter who isn’t a Citron hagiographer.

Bad Weather Can’t Keep Knicks Fans From a Bar

High winds, snow and sleet pelted Manhattan Tuesday night, but that didn’t stop more than 100 New York Knicks fans from gathering in a bar on the Upper East Side.

Cablevision Systems-owned MSG Network is duking it out with Time Warner Cable, which dropped MSG and Fox Sports New York over high fees for networks that have lost the rights to valuable sports properties, like the Yankees. So MSG has taken to holding “viewing parties” like this one, for the Knicks-Celtics game that night.

Inside the bar, The Wire asked why everyone was wearing T-shirts demanding that Time Warner Cable restore MSGN. “They said we could only get free beer if we wore the shirts,” a Queens resident responded.

MSGN also served free Buffalo wings and other food to people willing to wear the T-shirts — and the Knicks City Dancers made an appearance at the bar before the game. The network also gave one woman at the bar two courtside tickets to that night’s game, whisking her off to Madison Square Garden in a limo.

A large DirecTV banner adorned the front window at the bar, Back Page. Lucky for MSGN, the wind and snow didn’t hurt the bar’s satellite feed.