Capital Watch


DBS Channels Go Up for Auction

DBS companies can bid for 98 new satellite TV channels Aug. 6, the FCC said Tuesday.

All but two of the channels have a footprint too far west to reach viewers on the U.S. East Coast but will reach the rest of the continental U.S. as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Australia and other areas in Asia.

Three western licenses, each permitting 32 channels, are for orbital slots at 175, 166, and 157 degrees, respectively. The minimum opening bid for the 32 channels at 157 degrees is set at $6.4 million, or $200,000 per channel. Opening bids for slots at 175 degrees and 166 degrees are $1.6 million each, or $50,000 per channel. A license for two channels covering the entire continental U.S. at 61.5 degrees has been set at $1.6 million, or $800,000 per channel.

To make way for the auction, the FCC Tuesday dismissed petitions for some of the licenses.

Beers Leaves State

Charlotte Beers, under-secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at State, has resigned, citing health reasons. She was the point person between State and the Ad Council for PSA campaigns in support of the war on terrorism. Beers, former chairwoman of WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson and CEO of its Ogilvy & Mather, was the first ad exec to be placed in such a government role.

No Video of Sniper Trial

The trial of accused Washington, D.C., sniper Lee Malvo will not be open to cameras or microphones, Judge Jane Roush of Fairfax, Va., ruled last week.

Although she will not allow video or still cameras, there will be a closed-circuit feed so that media representatives unable to get a seat in the courtroom can watch the trial from another room.

According to RTNDA, which had made the Jan. 30 request for cameras, Judge Roush expressed concern that extensive media coverage could prejudice Malvo's ability to get a fair trial elsewhere. RTNDA had been joined by a number of other media organizations in the request, including the major news networks and Washington-area TV and radio stations.

RTNDA President Barbara Cochran said that she was disappointed by the decision: "The people of Washington, Maryland and Virginia were personally affected by the sniper shootings and deserve to see firsthand how justice is served."

Essentially the same group of petitioners lost out in an earlier bid to gain video access to the trial of the other accused sniper, John Allen Muhammad. Judge LeRoy Millette ruled in December that, while he would allow still cameras, he would not allow video due to its affect on witnesses and because it could be a distraction to jurors.


House Republicans preparing legislation renewing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's charter have requested that congressional auditors review operations of the corporation, the primary conduit of federal funds to public stations and programming. Led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), the lawmakers ordered the GAO to examine CPB.

Tauzin has pledged to push legislation this year that would renew, and perhaps make changes to, the corporation's charter.

Powell: little chance for fin-syn

FCC Chairman Michael Powell threw cold water on some Hollywood hopes for reviving the financial-interest and syndication rules that once limited broadcast networks' in-house programs during prime time. "I doubt the commission would initiate that without congressional direction," he told reporters Tuesday. He said he will keep an "open mind" regarding appeals by independent producers and others to revive the restrictions.