B&C Eye - Broadcasting & Cable

B&C Eye

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Conventional wisdom

Warner Bros. Domestic TV's move to a hotel suite for next year's NATPE has been a hot topic of conversation, but not at last week's NATPE board meeting. "It never came up," said NATPE CEO Bruce Johansen of Warner Bros.' plans. "It wasn't on the agenda." The subject did come up in an online discussion with NATPE Chairman Jon Mandel (hosted by TVInsite.com, which is co-owned with B&C). "Warner is the only one" that is lessening its role, he said. Later, Mandel told Eye that NATPE would renew its agreement with the Association of Local Television Stations, under which ALTV holds its annual meeting in conjunction with NATPE's. Details are still to be worked out, Mandel said, but NATPE's annual payment to ALTV would be no less than this year's $150,000.

Spot remover

The Television Bureau of Advertising has abandoned, for now, its plan to get some of those upfront ad dollars for the national spot sector. But TVB President Chris Rohrs says there may be an opportunity in scatter, especially with a writers' strike, because local newscasts would represent fresh programming for advertisers to buy. Getting a piece of the upfront was always premised, says Rohrs, "on a runaway bull market," which has slowed to a crawl.

Odd man in

FCC Commissioner Susan Ness two weeks ago said she will step down June 1, prompting Washington telcom types to speculate about the date Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth would pick for his exit. Turns out he doesn't have much choice. If he leaves before the three new commission nominees are confirmed, the commission won't have a quorum. Furchtgott-Roth could leave early anyway. But without at least three voting members, issues of top-tier importance will be left in limbo until the new crew arrives. Last week, Furchtgott-Roth said he would stay on and predicted that the nominees would be confirmed by the Senate between the Memorial Day and July 4 congressional breaks.

Communications breakdown

Don't punish the networks for beating up affiliates, just make them stop, the Network-Affiliated Stations Alliance told the FCC. NASA officials, who asked the FCC in March to investigate alleged abuses by the nets, said they were concerned because the agency appears to be treating the review as an enforcement action—which could lead to fines against the nets. Instead, NASA wants a declaratory ruling that would decide whether the networks are doing anything wrong. "The object is to clarify what the rules of the road are," NASA said in a letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell. The declaratory approach also would allow the FCC to look beyond violations of existing rules to consider whether new rules were needed. Filings in the proceeding are currently confidential and on Friday an FCC official said the agency is still trying to decide whether to keep it that way.

Sources said the agency was expected to send the petition back to NASA because officials weren't clear on whether NASA was seeking fines. The clarification was an attempt, sources said, to avert the public- relations blow if NASA were forced to rewrite its request. A NASA official said the group had no indication the FCC was planning to order a do-over and blamed the agency's confusion on press accounts.

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