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Capitol Watch - Broadcasting & Cable

Capitol Watch

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Can we see some ID, please?

White House-sponsored public-service announcements against drug abuse must identify the government's backing, the FCC has ruled.

The commission found that PSAs paid for by the Office of National Drug Control Policy must identify the White House program as the sponsor, rejecting the Ad Council's claim that the announcements are exempt from ad-identification requirements.

The FCC's ruling came in response to a request by Media Access Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

To prevent the paid PSAs from supplanting free announcements from other organizations, participants were required to match every federal dollar spent on ads with corresponding free airtime or other in-kind contributions.

Also, none of the program's funds were to be used to crowd out existing PSAs.

Participating in a government-sponsored health campaign and anticrime campaign does not provide insulation from identification requirements, the FCC found. Anticipating that the FCC might rule that way, the Ad Council also sought a waiver, but the commission ruled there was not sufficient justification.

Oops: FCC rescinds fine

Producers of radio call-in shows can breathe easier: The FCC withdrew a $4,000 fine against WEZB-FM New Orleans.

In February, the FCC issued WEZB-FM a notice of apparent liability because it had aired a DJ's conversation with a woman who called the station accidentally without first getting her permission. The commission prohibits airing conversations without the subject's approval.

On appeal, WEZB argued that the fine was unjust because stations are allowed to presume that individuals who contact a call-in program understand they could be put on air.

WEZB said the woman was told twice that she had reached a radio station. Initially, the FCC found that the woman was "understandably confused" but, rethinking the matter, ruled the circumstances fell within the call-in presumption.

Sinclair seeks DTV tuner standards

Baltimore-based station group Sinclair Broadcasting last week asked the FCC to set receiver standards for digital TVs and reverse its decision not to impose performance specifications when it set deadlines for incorporating digital receivers in nearly all sets by 2007. "The commission cannot rely on the promises of equipment manufacturers that the 'marketplace' will ensure DTV tuners will provide reliable reception," Sinclair said.

CC taps Levin for In-house lobbying post

Confirming a Sept. 19 report on Broadcastingcable.com, Clear Channel has named Andrew Levin senior vice president, government relations, based in Washington. Clear Channel is already represented by law firm Wiley, Rein & Fielding LLP, but the nation's largest radio company decided it needed an in-house Washington lobbying office. Levin was formerly chief telcom adviser to John Dingell (D-Mich.), ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee. He was also a leading candidate for the FCC seat vacated by Gloria Tristani in 2001. Clear Channel is targeting a Dec. 1 start date.

Pundits get flowers

Legal battles over former President Bill Clinton's sexual history continue. Last week, a judge in San Francisco ruled that a lower court should not have dismissed all of Gennifer Flowers' defamation and conspiracy complaint against James Carville and George Stephanopoulos (above) and ordered a trial on some charges. Flowers' complaint is partly directed at statements that Carville and Stephanopoulos made on Larry King Live in 1998 and during a 2000 CNBC interview with Tim Russert.

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