Washington Watch


Ex-FCC, NAB Counsels Build Media Practice For Wilmer

Powerhouse Washington law firm Wilmer Cutler
Pickering Hale and Dorr
has tapped two veteran media lawyers to
build a media-policy practice.

The firm, which successfully defended the 2002 campaign-finance-reform
law before the Supreme Court, is actually
best-known for securities and white-collar defense and intellectual-property
and antitrust work. Now the firm wants to lure broadcast, cable and other media

Former FCC General Counsel
John Rogovin and ex-NAB General Counsel Jack
will specialize in media law within the firm's
communications and e-commerce practice. Currently, the practice's main
clients are telephone companies.

Rogovin and Goodman's first assignment is to help the firm's Bell
telephone clients Verizon and
SBC navigate regulatory hurdles in front of
their entry into the video-delivery business, but part of their charge is to
recruit new broadcast and cable clients, too. “John and I hope to bring in
more media-policy work,” says Goodman, who joined the firm six weeks ago. He
was an NAB lawyer for 14 years. Rogovin served as FCC deputy general counsel
and then general counsel from 2001 to 2005.

Ferree Urges “Balance” In Media Diets

In his first public appearance since becoming acting president of the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB),
Ken Ferree took some swipes at commercial
broadcasters for offering up the programming equivalent of “fried foods and

Non-profit broadcasters, he told a gathering of public-radio execs in
Washington, offer a nutritious alternative.

“Profit-motivated, commercial media is very good at providing
high-fat, low-nutrition programming [that] consumers rush to in their weaker
moments,” said Ferree, who is making an earnest effort to define himself and
his goals for CPB amid doubts about his commitment to public broadcasting and
concerns that CPB leadership is pushing its programming to the political

Ferree, COO and acting president CPB since the departure of
Kathleen Cox four weeks ago, denies there's
an agenda to turn public stations into right-wing mouthpieces as has been
suggested by Common Cause,
Consumers Union and Free
. Nevertheless, he defended a move to include more conservative
voices on stations supported in part by taxpayer dollars. “I'd urge you to
think seriously about diversity of opinion,” he said. “CPB, funded as it is
with taxpayer dollars and guided as it is by statutory language, has special
responsibilities to strive toward objectivity and balance. Our goal should be
to expand and enlighten public discourse; offering a wide range of views is one
way to do that.”

Dummies Sort Out DTV Confusion

To alleviate Washington concerns that digital-TV buying is a
nightmare, RCA has teamed with the publisher
of the Dummies how-to series. The goal is to
help decipher options and technical jargon that many in the industry think is
scaring set buyers away from digital-TV purchases.
The pocket-sizeHDTV Buying Tips for Dummies
is designed to be an “an easy-to-understand primer” on common DTV
connections, how to receive programming, the various display formats, and
display-technology options. The Dummies series already includes a book on HDTV,
but the pocket guide will be distributed by consumer-electronics retailers.

Adelstein Skeptical of Cable Family Tier

FCC Commissioner
Jonathan Adelstein isn't ready to join
critics who want to make cable operators offer family-themed tiers or
“à la carte” channels to protect children from inappropriate

In a speech to cable-industry public-relations executives, he said
cable should do more to explain how those options could drive up consumers'
costs or eliminate choice by driving weaker channels out of business. “It's
easy to say you shouldn't pay for channels you don't want, but the other
side … deserves consideration.” Adelstein said he's not against either
family tiers or à la carte but the impact on costs and viability of
lower-rated channels “are counterweights that ought to be considered.”

He made his comments before the annual Washington conference of the
Cable Television Public Affairs Association.
The cable industry's plan to spend $250 million on a public-affairs campaign
to educate parents about channel-blocking technology is “fantastic,”
Adelstein said.

Comcast Adds Lobbyist For State Governments

As cable rolls out telephone service to more local markets, the
biggest operator has hired a lobbyist to handle state legislatures and

Comcast has hired
Richard Schollmann, previously president of
the Virginia Cable Telecommunications
, to help the company win state approvals to roll out
local telephone service and make the case against phone companies' bid for
local franchise rules that would ease their entry into video service.