Capital Watch


Berlin Wall

Berlin's much ballyhooed quick switch to all-digital TV can't be duplicated in the U.S. Or so the top cable trade group tells the FCC. Regulators and lawmakers alike have buzzed with interest since Berlin cut off broadcasters' old analog channels last August. Congress has even asked researchers at the General Accounting Office to study whether lessons there can aid the U.S. transition to DTV. But, after visiting Berlin, National Cable & Telecommunications Association staffers Dan Brenner and Steven Mace say the markets are too different to draw many parallels. For starters, only 7% of Berliners don't subscribe to pay TV, versus 15% here. Consequently, Germany needed to subsidize over-the-air DTV equipment for a mere 6,000 people who couldn't afford new DTV sets. The NCTA study was submitted to the FCC soon after agency staffers began floating their own Berlin-like plan to speed the U.S. transition. An NCTA spokesman said the timing was a coincidence.

Navel Shield

Broadcasters might be facing bigger indecency fines, but some at least are taking the hit in good spirits. FCC Enforcement Chief David Solomon will update them on the crackdown at the National Association of Broadcasters convention next week. The invite features an orange—sorry, no breasts—sporting the same nipple shield laid bare during Janet Jackson's Super Bowl performance.

Durbin Edition

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is rallying fellow baby boomers to help NPR's Bob Edwards remain host of Morning Edition. Twice on the Senate floor, Durbin has encouraged fans of the soon-to-be deposed Edwards to flood NPR and member stations with e-mail and phone complaints. A staffer says Durbin's office has received about a hundred e-mails and letters supporting Edwards. "This decision by National Public Radio is the wrong decision," Durbin said on the Senate floor. He all but accused NPR of moving the 56-year-old Edwards to a lower-profile job as senior correspondent because of his age. "If it is the marketing belief of NPR that they need to have a new fresh voice," he said, "they are missing the big picture."