BROADCASTING: PRESTIDIGITATION

A BOON TO BROADCASTERS MAKES BOB DOLE QUEASY

IMPORTANT LAWS ARE USUALLY FEStooned with special-interest baubles to ensure their passage. But sometimes the gift-giving frenzy embarrasses even lawmakers. Take, for example, the sweeping telecommunications legislation now before Congress. Tucked inside it is wording that could allow public airwaves worth as much as $70 billion to be handed over, free of charge, to existing U.S. television broadcasters at a free-market auction. Senate majority leader Bob Dole, hardly a sworn enemy of special interests, has blanched; last week he threatened to oppose the entire bill unless the giveaway is dropped.

The spectrum handout is a classic example of how government subsidies...

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