Lawmakers Say Gulf War Could Preempt Passage Of Cable & B’cast Reregs

The chance for passing meaningful cable or broadcast legislation this year seems increasingly remote as Congress focuses on more important events, like the Persian Gulf war, a group of lawmakers said last week.

Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), a member of the Senate’s communications subcommittee, said those who are predicting passage of telecommunications legislation in 1991 are “clearly whistling against history.” He noted that a number of issues – including cable reregulation, telephone company entry into cable and efforts to codify the Fairness Doctrine – have generated enthusiasm in past years, only to fail in the waning days of Congress.

Gorton said chances are “not better than 50-50” that any major piece of legislation will be signed into law by President Bush this year.

Gorton’s comments were made at the annual legislative forum of the Federal Communications Bar Assn. Also on hand for the sesh were four members of the House telecommunications subcommittee: Reps. Mike Synar (D-Okla.), Michael Oxley (R-Ohio), Don Ritter (R-Pa.) and Tom McMillen (D-Md.).

Of the four House members, only Synar predicted passage of a cable rereg bill in 1991. He said cable legislation “could be potentially a very active area.”

But Ritter and Oxley downplayed prospects for a cable bill. Oxley said it would be “totally unrealistic” to expect movement of cable legislation, particularly in light of repeated White House veto threats. The Bush administration, said Oxley, “won’t compromise on anything that smells of reregulation.”

Ritter also warned that if Democrats try to politicize cable reregulation, “there will be a lot more heat than light and it won’t go anywhere.”

The lawmakers said they would not be surprised if either the networks or Hollywood come calling on Capitol Hill for relief from the upcoming Federal Communications Commission decision on revising the financial interest and syndication rules. The solons expressed little interest at becoming involved in the issue, however.

Oxley said he does not have “one constituent who gives two hoots in hell” over the eventual finsyn outcome.

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