McSlarrow Takes Reins at NCTA

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Kyle McSlarrow, who becomes president of the cable industry’s main trade group Tuesday, freely admits, “I don’t know beans about cable,” but he knows what he doesn't like, which would be broadcast indecency restrictions extended to the wired medium.

And if the board of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association doesn’t see his lack of industry experience as a drawback, the former Energy Department official isn’t going to worry about it either.

“I’m mindful I have an enormous amount of learning to do,” he said over lunch with reporters last week at Washington steakhouse Sam & Harry’s, a favorite power dining hangout for lobbyists. “I guess they were looking for someone who can pull it all together.”

He replaces Robert Sachs, who stepped down Feb. 28 after leading NCTA for five years.

Because of his lack of industry experience, McSlarrow remained reticent on the public policy and industry debates facing cable...with one exception--the ongoing congressional effort to rein in sex and violence on TV.

McSlarrow, 44, defended cable’s exemption from the type of indecency restrictions that broadcasters face. “I’ve got three boys and there’s a lot on TV I don’t want them to watch.” But he’s “comfortable” with the channel-blocking technology cable offers parents. “I don’t want to start making decisions about what other people watch.”

As for his own viewing, McSlarrow says his family subscribes to the Fairfax, Va., Cox franchise and gets a digital package that includes high-definition service. He also owns a digital video recorder and just started getting his telephone service over cable.

The Sci-Fi channel is his favorite cable offering and says he’s glued to the tube Friday nights watching Stargate, Stargate Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica.

McSlarrow said there is one similarity between the energy and cable industries that gives him insight into his new duties—both businesses operate over networks that are heavily regulated by the local, state and federal governments.

Cable and energy industries operate networks that are regulated in varying degrees by the government. Like the cable industry’s fight to remain free of access rules that would force operators to carry rival Internet providers on their high-speed networks, energy companies too must grapple with rules governing sharing of pipelines and power grids.

“I was dealing with open access every day,” he says.