Washington Watch


Roberts' Rules Of Media Order

Chief Justice-in-Waiting John Roberts weighed in on several First Amendment issues during his confirmation hearings last week. A vote to replace the late William Rhenquist is expected this week. Following are a few excerpts from his hearings.

On porn: Roberts agrees that court precedent has established a lesser protection for pornographic speech than for political or “core” speech but that, in a judicial sense, he won't know porn until he sees it.

On government restrictions on access: Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee he thinks there are “perfectly valid” reasons for the government to exclude the media from some images and venues but disagreement over whether certain images are appropriate isn't one of them, or at least not a “compelling” one.

On cameras in the court: Roberts didn't say yes or no. While pointing out that his “new best friend,” former Sen. and co-star of Law & Order Fred Thompson, says that cameras are “nothing to be afraid of,” he said he “does not have a set view.”

Thompson was appointed by the administration to shepherd Roberts through the process.

FCC on Retrans: Let It Be

In a victory for broadcasters, the FCC has decided not to make any changes, at least for now, to its retransmission-consent rules or other regulations related to the carriage of broadcast stations on cable and satellite.

But the FCC—Chairman Kevin Martin issued the report on behalf of the commission—went even further.

The report said that, if Congress decided to step in to limit how much broadcasters could receive for their signals in retrans negotiations, it should give them something in return to help spur the digital transition.

“If broadcasters are limited in their ability to accept in-kind compensation, they should be granted full carriage rights for their digital broadcast signals, including all free over-the-air digital multicast streams,” the FCC concluded.

The commission was reviewing the 2004 Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act (SHVERA) at the behest of Congress.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow has made it clear as recently as two weeks ago that carriage trade-offs should come at the retrans negotiating table, not from Washington.

Time Warner Picks Berry

Time Warner is tapping a tapped-in Republican to help make its various regulatory cases in Washington.

Tim Berry, chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom Delay, is leaving to become a lobbyist for Time Warner, starting mid October. Time Warner lost a well-connected Republican in Washington lobbyist Lisa Nelson, who exited in May to join Visa, but Berry, whose title is VP, global public policy, is expected to have a wider purview.

Time Warner spokeswoman Kathy McKiernan says the company has always had a mix of staffers from both sides of the aisle: “We're mostly looking for strong, experienced pros, regardless of party.”

Time Warner's public-policy operation in Washington is headed by Carol Melton, executive VP, global public policy.

CBS Firms Up Washington Lineup

Time Warner wasn't the only big-media player aligning its Washington ducks. CBS has named Gail MacKinnon, former VP, government relations for Viacom, to be senior VP, Washington, for the new CBS, in charge of lobbying on federal issues when the division splits off from Viacom early next year.

She will head the D.C. office, reporting to Martin Franks, who has promoted to executive VP, planning, policy and government relations, cementing his role heading up federal-, state- and local-government relations—among other things—for the new CBS.