TN: Despite compromise bill, cable ads bashing AT$T still ran

Posted on April 24, 2008 - 6:43am.

from: City Paper

Despite compromise bill, cable ads bashing AT&T still ran
By John Rodgers
Nashville City Paper

Despite compromise bill, cable ads bashing AT&T still ran | comcast, at&t, compromise bill, television franchising, state legislature

Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association says continued ads targeting AT&T after compromise could be due to timing in getting them off the air. Matthew Williams/The City Paper
When a compromise was reached between AT&T, the cable industry and local governments over television franchising legislation two weeks ago, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh made a simple request.

Naifeh (D-Covington), who was instrumental in forging the compromise, urged the parties involved to stop running advertisements bashing AT&T or the cable industry over the legislation, which AT&T says it needs to start offering television programming and competing with cable.

Tennesseans have been exposed to those ads — from both sides but primarily the cable industry — for a good portion of the past two years.

But despite the compromise legislation being agreed upon, the cable industry has continued to run advertisements during the last two weeks bashing AT&T’s effort to get into the television programming business.

The cable industry, however, says it is not trying to lobby the general public against the legislation right now, said Stacey Briggs, executive director of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association.

“This could be a matter of timing in getting the commercials off the air,” Briggs said. “There should be no advocacy pieces running right now.”

Briggs said cable providers were notified “a couple of days ago” to stop running ads lobbying against AT&T’s effort to pass a law it says is necessary to compete with cable companies like Comcast.

Rep. Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta), the sponsor of the compromise legislation, said he understands why the cable industry is continuing to run advertisements because they have the most to lose if the compromise bill passes.

“They’re going to squall and squeal because the best thing that can happen to them is we don’t pass this,” Curtiss said.

In Tennessee, unlike other states, cable companies do not face competition from AT&T or other large telecommunications providers.

AT&T wants to pass legislation, which the compromise bill accomplishes, to establish a state-issued franchise process to start providing television programming.

The cable industry, with its business model of going through local municipalities for television franchising rights threatened, has lobbied extensively in the past against AT&T’s move.

Briggs said the industry is currently not lobbying against the legislation and would not acknowledge that cable companies came out the worst in the negotiations.

“It does change the way we’ve been doing business for the past 30 years,” Briggs said.

Meanwhile, the compromise legislation sailed through another committee Tuesday, receiving the unanimous approval of the House Finance Committee. The legislation has one more routine panel to head through before reaching the House floor.

“This bill is about giving consumers choice, putting competition into the marketplace,” said Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads), a bill co-sponsor.

( categories: AT&T | State Franchises | TENNESSEE )