Squabbling at the FCC has reached new heights – or depths. Commissioner Andrew Barrett Nov.16 called chairman Reed Hundt a “gutless liar” after Hundt reportedly said Barrett and FCC member James Quello are delaying the Westinghouse-CBS merger while embarking on a “campaign against kids.”

Barrett’s comment came in response to quotes attributed to Hundt in the Washington, D.C.-based publication Communications Daily, in which the FCC chairman claimed that approval of the Westinghouse-CBS merger is being stalled by Barrett and Quello. Hundt allegedly told the publication that Quello and Barrett are “holding Westinghouse hostage in their campaign against kids.”

“All I’ll say is, Reed Hundt is a gutless liar,” Barrett said when reached at his office Nov. 16.

Reached at his home the same day, Hundt did not deny making the statement. “Apparently, Andy’s upset,” Hundt said. “When we can get back to work, we can iron this out.”

The Hundt-Barrett feud stems from an issue that Hundt has made his pet cause: enactment of an FCC rule requiring commercial broadcasters to air three hours per week of children’s educational programming.

The issue bubbled to the surface when Westinghouse agreed to add two hours of kidvid educational programming on the Eye web. The announcement came on the same day that kids TV watchdog groups dropped a petition seeking to deny the Westinghouse-CBS merger.

Quello immediately labeled the Westinghouse kidvid pledge as an example of “legalized extortion,” and the veteran commish charged that Hundt engineered the pact. Hundt denied the claim, as did Westinghouse and the kids TV watchdog groups.

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