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No go?

The on-again/off-again 700 MHz auction may be off again, sort of.

Despite an FCC ruling May 24 that would parcel out the frequencies in two auctions by the end of the year, Congress is likely to indefinitely postpone bidding for most channels now used for TV chs. 52-69.

Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) are expected to broker a deal with Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens that will require auctions to go forward for only two of the five license blocks that have been carved out. One of the blocks would give winners a 12-MHz swath of spectrum, the other 6-MHz. Stevens has introduced legislation that would require the entire swath of spectrum to be auctioned June 19, but his major interest is said to be helping Alaska Native Wireless with its plan to roll out wireless service in rural areas of his home state, as well as the lower 48.

The legislative deal, according to Capitol Hill sources, would be attached as a rider to a noncontroversial bill. The FCC has been under pressure to cancel the auction, which has been postponed a half-dozen times already, but has refused because current statute requires that proceeds be deposited in the Treasury this year.—B.M.

MTV stays home

Even if MTV is hatching an Osbournes
spin-off, TV critics won't get a first look. When the semi-annual Television Critics Association tour returns to Pasadena, Calif., in July, the MTV Networks will be home in New York. The group, which includes heavyweights MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and TNN, is sitting this one out.

Seems tour organizers want cable nets' presentations to hype new shows and stars. "TCA has asked that cable networks try to be more newsy and less time-filling, with state-of-the-channel reports during press tour," said TCA head and Newsday
writer Diane Werts. MTV Network execs decided its channels don't fill that bill this time. But MTV assures us they'll be back. It is, after all, where MTV unveiled its mega-hit The Osbournes
last January.

Missing the tour will save Viacom a bundle. It can cost each company $100,000 or more to fête the scribes.—A.R.

Fisher steps up

Cox Television President Andy Fisher is expected to be named vice chairman of the NAB TV board this week, even though the second of his two two-year board terms has expired. Not to worry. Fisher will be taking a designated board seat allocated to the TV Operators Caucus, which is made up of leaders of most of the big TV groups (Cox was No. 13 on B&C's latest top-25 list). Because that seat is appointed, Fisher can stay on the board as long as TOC wants him there. Fisher has led the fight to preserve the 35% national audience cap on TV ownership, a battle that drove Viacom, Fox and NBC from the NAB ranks. Fisher, along with Post-Newsweek's Alan Frank, also led an affiliate effort to get the FCC to crack down on what they alleged were network abuses of affiliates.—P.A.

TV vet gets Fox Nets

Fox is putting a veteran TV-station executive in charge of its cable networks, tapping Tony Vinciquerra as president and CEO of Fox Networks Group. The company should announce the deal this week. Vinciquerra is currently president of Fox Television Network, overseeing the operations side of Fox's broadcast network. His new title will add to that Fox's cable networks, including FX, the National Geographic Channel partnership, the various Fox Sports regional networks, and Fox Movie Network. The cable properties had been run by Jeff Schell, who moved over to Gemstar in April. Vinciquerra joined Fox in January, leaving his post of COO of Hearst-Argyle Television. Previously, Vinciquerra was executive VP of CBS stations and GM of KYW-TV Philadelphia and WBZ-TV Boston.
—J.M.H.

NAB's Do-good tally: $9.9B

The NAB says commercial TV and radio stations contributed $9.9 billion in public service in 2001, a billion of which came from Sept. 11 relief efforts. That figure is a combination of donated airtime and money for charity and disaster aid. It doesn't include network efforts or the value of stations' personnel time. It is NAB's third public-service census. The 1999 figure was $8.1 billion; the 1997 figure, $6.8 billion.

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