Through The Wire: Old FCC Hands Revisit History


Former FCC chairman Reed Hundt and his chief of staff,Blair Levin, got off to a factually inauspicious start in the debut edition of Brill'sContent, Steve Brill's magazine devoted to exposing media excesses and successes.Hundt and Levin, listed on the masthead as contributing editors, used their "DCCircuits" column to rehash the digital-TV debate. Hundt and Levin tried toabsolve themselves from any responsibility for giving away to each local TV station a newdigital license worth billions of dollars in the aggregate. Not surprisingly, they blamedCongress. But a quick check of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, under the heading,"Broadcast Spectrum Flexibility," shows the law reading: "If the [FCC]determines to issue additional licenses for advanced-television services ..."

Talk about grand openings ... BET Holdings Inc. lastTuesday opened its second restaurant in the Washington, D.C., area -- this one based onits BET on Jazz service -- by hosting one of jazz's most famous fans, PresidentClinton. The restaurant -- which serves new-world Caribbean cuisine in an elegant art decoenvironment -- opened its doors for the president and a few close political buddiesattending a $10,000-per-plate Democratic Business Council dinner.

DBS analyst Mickey Alpert may stop speaking in public. Firealarms interrupted the executive roundtable that he was hosting last Tuesday, during theDBS Summit at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Denver. It seems that a disgruntled hotelemployee was holed up in the kitchen next door, threatening another employee with a gun.Fellow staff members later said they believed that the dispute was over a woman. Thecrisis was resolved without injury, but not before the hotel canceled all afternoonpanels. A few years ago, also at the DBS Summit, his keynote address was interrupted bythe incessant sound of drums from a Japanese "religious-purification ceremony"in a nearby conference room.

CNN president Rick Kaplan, the ex-ABC News executive, madea Freudian slip at last week's luncheon press conference announcing the expansion of Moneylinewith Lou Dobbs to one hour. Talking to reporters, Kaplan inadvertently referred toDobbs' show as Nightline, the shop where he once toiled as executiveproducer. Kaplan made the boo-boo in front of Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin, whogood-naturedly pointed out the error, saying, "You meant to say Moneyline, ofcourse," prompting some chuckles. Dobbs himself made the Sphinx look chatty when hewas asked where plans stand to expand CNNfn into a 24-hour network. Last summer, he almostquit over that issue, which is still apparently a touchy one.

Actress Gloria Stuart, "old Rose" in the movie Titanic,made a brief opening-day speech at the Promax/BDA International conference in Toronto lastweek -- the only apparent connection being that the theme was, "It's abouttime," and she's been around a long time. But she did deliver one memorableline, when she quipped, "I love Promax and BDA -- I take them every morning afterbreakfast!" Some conventioneers, like Jim Boyle, senior VP at DiscoveryCommunications, are already fretting about back-to-back traveling one year hence.Promax is due June 9 to 12 in San Francisco, with the National Show due the very next weekin Chicago.

By R. Thomas Umstead, from bureau reports.