Through The Wire: Next on Jerry: My Ex-Aide Strips Cable!


You might know Jim O'Brien as the affable president ofJones Intercable Inc. Or maybe as chairman of CTAM. But did you know that in the 1970s,when he lived in Cincinnati, he worked on the campaign of mayoral candidate JerrySpringer? Well, it's true, which may be more than can be said for Jerry Springer.O'Brien doesn't have an opinion on that score: He says he's never seenthe show (or the video). But he said Springer was an effective mayor and citycouncilman, and there were never any fistfights during council meetings. "It wasjust, kind of, government," he says.

Last week's SBC-Ameritech merger had people talkingabout other telco combos. At least one cable exec has an idea about U S WestCommunications. Steve Santamaria, regional VP for TCI of Colorado, discovered whatit's like on the other side of the fence last year, when he tried to get U S West toinstall a second phone line in his Denver home. Told that it would take six to eight weeksto fill his request, Santamaria phoned the office of U S West chairman Richard McCormickpersonally. "Everybody calls me when something goes wrong, so I figured I'd callsomebody," he said. An assistant in McCormick's office promised that theinstallation would take place the following Saturday. "I sat there all day. Theynever came," Santamaria said. "But it's hard for me to cast stones,because we've put our customers through that, too." What he couldn'tunderstand was how McCormick's assistant could make a commitment that wasn'tkept.

Why is billionaire Amos Hostetter sending the FCC a checkfor $960? That's the commission's charge for filing for relief from theagency's ban on the common ownership of a cable system and a TV station in the samemarket. Hostetter needs relief if he wants to continue serving as a trustee of the WGHBEducational Foundation -- the FCC licensee of two public TV stations in Boston and onein Springfield, Mass. -- while at the same time owning 8.5. percent of MediaOne Groupcommon stock after the U S West spinoff this summer. MediaOne has cable systems in thesame market as the public TV stations, and the FCC rules kick in once ownership exceeds 5percent -- thus, former Continental Cablevision chairman Hostetter's problem.

Apparently cognizant of cable's erosion ofbroadcast-TV-network ratings, a couple of primetime pilot producers seem to be looking tocable for inspiration -- not that this is a bad thing. Fox is considering Hollyweird,a Wes Craven drama from Universal Television, about two producers of a weekly Ohiocable-access documentary series who double as investigators of bizarre murders, accordingto Paul Schulman Co.'s report on pilots in development for the 1998-99 season.Hollyweirdis a "hot prospect" to make Fox's fall lineup, Schulman says.Meanwhile, UPN is mulling Extra Sauce, a sitcom from Viacom about two 20-something,full-figured, "irreverent hosts of a local cable cooking show," Schulman adds.

By Kent Gibbons, from bureau reports.