Jim Mooney resigned as president and CEO of the National Cable TV Assn. Thursday, mainly because he could not prevent Congress from legislating the harshest regulatory bill in the history of cable.

Decker Anstrom, who’s executive VP of the association, will be the acting chairman of NCTA.

Insiders say that at last November’s board meeting of the NCTA, the industry’s main lobbying organization, many cable operators were demanding that Mooney be fired after Congress passed the Cable TV Consumer Protection Act of 1992over President Bush’s veto. But the board decided to keep him on in the hope that he’d be able to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to interpret the law in a way that would ease some of the burden on cable operators.

When the FCC ignored the NCTA’s lobbyists and wrote guidelines in April that could force operators to funnel more than $ 1 billion in givebacks to their subscribers, Mooney “saw the handwriting on the wall and realized that his effectiveness in the job had come to an end,” said one MSO executive, who requested anonymity.

Mooney, reached by phone in his Washington office, downplayed the theory the operators had lost faith in his lobbying ability. Implying that the decision to resign was his, not the board’s, he said, “For some time now, I had stopped saying to myself, ‘My God, how exciting it is to go to work every day.’ “

Dick Roberts, president and CEO of Telecable Corp., a top-20 MSO, and board chairman of the NCTA, said he’s formed a committee to find a successor to Mooney. The chairman of the search committee will be Bob Miron, president of the Newhouse Broadcasting Corp., a top-10 MSO.

“The NCTA needs a president who’ll roll up his shirtsleeves and make a commitment to working 60-hour weeks,” said Dave Andersen, VP of public affairs for Cox Cable Communications, the sixth-largest MSO. “And we want someone with strong communications skills, including the ability to deal effectively with the news media.”

Another cable operator said, not for attribution, “Jim Mooney wasn’t outthere enough. We need someone like a Jack Valenti (president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America), who moves through Capitol Hill, the White House and the FCC like a whirling dervish.”

One source said the search committee plans to sound out Ervin Duggan, who’d have to resign his post as FCC commissioner.

Mooney, 50, joined the NCTA in January 1981 as VP of government relations, moved up to executive VP nine months later, and was elected president in April 1984. Before joining the NCTA, Mooney spent four years as chief of staff to the majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Anstrom was president of Public Strategies, a D.C.-based economic-policy consulting firm, when he signed on with the NCTA in November 1987.

Mooney said he plans to take the summer off, spending the next couple of months in Maine on his boat with his wife and child. He’s not sure exactly what his next job will be but he does know one thing: “Lobbying is not in my future.”

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