C-Span chief pans digital must-carry

Sez channels will 'go dark' if proposal becomes law

WASHINGTON — When it comes to the debate over must-carry for broadcasters’ new digital TV signals, C-Span’s Brian Lamb is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a letter to the members of congressional Commerce Committees Lamb wrote on May 22, “Let me be absolutely clear … if digital must-carry becomes law, C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 will go dark in millions more American households.”

Lamb fears that a decision by the Federal Communications Commission in support of digital must-carry could result in C-Span and C-Span 2 getting knocked off the channel lineup on cable systems around the country.

While Lamb steadfastly maintains non-partisan posture on the air, on the topic of must-carry he has a very clear point of view.

Now that Lamb has let Congress know how he feels, he will begin personally lobbying members of the FCC this week. Asked if Lamb, C-SPAN’s chairman and CEO, is jeopardizing his position as an objective journalist, C-SPAN’s Bruce Collins, corporate vice president and general counsel replied Friday, “You might well ask the same thing of Ted Turner or any other broadcast or cable executive,” who lobbies Congress or the FCC. Turner and most other execs do not have the on-air role that Lamb does, of course.

When Lamb does make his way across town to visit with the FCC commissioners, he won’t have to introduce himself. On May 8, Lamb did consecutive interviews with all five commissioners from the FCC’s M Street headquarters. During the interviews some callers asked questions that were related to the must-carry issue, but Lamb never brought it up himself, Collins said. “We made it a point in that format not to bring up any issues in which we had a direct involvement in,” Collins said.