At Year-End, an Agency Finds Harmony

(By Keith Bendis -- Bloomberg News)
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By Cindy Skrzycki
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Singing Regulators probably won't get their own network television reality show. Still, about a dozen staff members at the Federal Communications Commission have developed a growing audience for their annual telecom-themed Christmas carols.

For the past 16 years, the carolers have jazzed up tech-heavy regulatory issues to poke fun at the hot topics facing the commission, which regulates the nation's airwaves.

The seven carols' topics include the satellite radio merger and whether cable TV companies should offer a la carte pricing. The iPhone, BlackBerry and digital TV got a capella treatment.

The agency has never lacked for material, writers or singers, said FCC spokesman David Fiske. When the holiday tradition began in 1991, the songs included issues such as "slamming," as in big telephone companies stealing long-distance customers from each other.

The FCC was thinking then, too, about eliminating media cross-ownership rules, an issue that still divided the commission last week, and reallocating radio spectrum to new, emerging technologies, another matter still on the agenda.

As in the past, this year's batch of carols was performed for the five commissioners at the FCC's District headquarters.

The group went prime-time, making its first public appearance before almost 1,400 people at the Dec. 5 Chairman's Dinner at the Hilton Washington. The event is sponsored by the Federal Communications Bar Association to benefit charity.

Here's a sample of the issues that inspired the songs, followed by the carols, edited for space:

¿ Apple's iPhone hit the U.S. market in June and took off, with more than 1.4 million sold through October. The Cupertino, Calif., company is rolling out the device in Europe and eyeing Japan. This month, Apple bumped up to five from three the number of touch-screen phones consumers are allowed to buy at the $399 holiday price. As the song points out, the device -- wireless phone, iPod music player and Internet gateway all rolled into one -- is fully operational only with AT&T service.

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