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Name and title: Bruce D. Collins, corporate vice president and general counsel Age: 53 C-SPAN: Created by the cable industry in 1979 to air public service programming, C-SPAN (the National Cable Satellite Corp., whose letters stand for the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) reaches roughly 10% of the public in any given month and is available in 85 million homes nationwide. Based in Washington, the private, nonprofit corporation has 285 employees and generates annual revenues of $45 million, mostly from license fees paid by cable operators and satellite distributors. “Our mission is to provide access to the political process,” Collins said of C-SPAN which, along with its sister radio network and C-SPAN2 and C-SPAN3, airs public proceedings, including White House press briefings and speeches, sessions of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and assemblies of the British House of Commons. First amendment man: Collins maintains that asserting C-SPAN’s First Amendment right to free speech is the most important aspect of his job. “We are a journalistic organization, and we ought not to be excluded from places where the public’s business is debated, discussed or decided.” In the past 15 years, he has tried fruitlessly to get the Supreme Court to open oral arguments to C-SPAN’s cameras. He admits that the high court’s ban violates neither statutes nor constitutional provisions, but added that it disregards principles and traditions of openness. Collins is also concerned about media consolidation and its potential chilling effect on free and unbridled speech and said that “if indecency standards were applied to some of the things we do, I would fight like hell.” Rules and regulations: “Whenever Congress legislates in the cable area,” Collins said, “we seem to get hurt.” In Turner v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622 (1994), C-SPAN and others unsuccessfully challenged, on First Amendment grounds, the rule mandating that a cable operator must carry every single licensed broadcaster in its service area. C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 did not qualify for must-carry status (despite their obvious public interest orientation) because they do not use spectrum licensed by the government. The rule has allegedly squeezed C-SPAN out of 3 million households. Collins is warily monitoring the Federal Communications Commission’s progress in formulating a possible “dual must-carry rule.” In anticipation of all-digital TV, the FCC is thought to be devising regulations giving every local broadcast station a second channel on cable systems. This could hurt C-SPAN and other cable programmers, said Collins, who argued that “the transition to digital television would be accomplished most effectively through the free market.” Another issue of concern is ultrawideband deployment. A consortium including C-SPAN fears that proposed new frequencies that the FCC would permit would overlap satellite signals now in use, to destructive effect. Collins and his allies want the FCC to tweak its standards so that the spectrums used would not interfere with C-SPAN’s signal. Campaign complaints: Collins fends off the occasional complaint that C-SPAN is violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act. In 1992, Ross Perot campaigned using videotaped spots and bought network time to play them. C-SPAN, which does not sell air time, aired the spots because, at the time, they constituted the entirety of Perot’s campaign. Collins prevailed in his claim that C-SPAN had not made an unlawful corporate contribution to the candidate. More recently, Lenore Fulani of the Independence Party of New York state, which is affiliated with the Reform Party, complained that C-SPAN had violated sponsorship rules when it aired an ABC-sponsored presidential debate, but again, Collins was victorious. On the flip side of the campaign coin, candidates’ use of C-SPAN’s copyrighted videotapes, without permission, occurs every election cycle, causing him to pressure the perpetrators into desisting. Legal department: The self-professed “only lawyer C-SPAN has ever had,” Collins has his hand in all of the corporation’s legal affairs. He drafts bylaws, is involved in board management and deals with personnel policy and disputes, immigration issues, contracts, copyrights and trademarks. He handles IRS audits and tax-exempt bond financing, along with real estate sales, acquisitions and leases. The multifaceted GC also lobbies Congress and relevant government agencies on issues such as regulatory compliance. A workhorse, Collins does as much as he can in-house, calling upon outside counsel only if needed. For FCC licensing, he turns to Henry Goldberg of Washington’s Goldberg, Godles, Weiner & Wright. Marc Miller of D.C.’s McLeod, Watkinson & Miller assists in collections and intellectual property. Collins relies upon Joe Damato of Chicago-based Seyfarth Shaw’s Washington office for labor and employment matters. Route to the top: After graduating from Cornell University in 1973 and later receiving a J.D. in 1986 from Washington’s National Law Center (now George Washington University Law School), Collins went on to a colorful career that embraced law, politics, print and electronic journalism, advocacy and public policy. He has worked for the U.S. House of Representatives, Black Entertainment Television and Turner Broadcasting, for which he has conducted more than 1,000 interviews and call-in programs. (He chuckled as he recalled a live-TV chat with author and social commentator Studs Terkel, whose sputtering, arm-waving response to a “Red-baiting” caller broke part of the camera and disrupted the interview.) Collins provides counsel to several nonprofit organizations and also pens “At the Non-Profit Bar,” a regular column for Corporate Legal Times. Since 1989, he has been C-SPAN’s corporate vice president and general counsel. “Being part of a very iffy idea that began with very low capitalization when I was a night student in law school, and sticking with it for 23 years and seeing it as a nationally recognized brand that is highly regarded by people who care about their government and society” is a career highlight, he said. Personal: Collins, a native of Albany, N.Y., and resident of Washington, is married to Carrie, whose maiden name is also Collins. He is a guitar player and banjo picker. Last book and movie: Essays of Elia, by Charles Lamb, and Behind Sad Eyes: The Life of George Harrison, by Marc Shapiro. Something’s Gotta Give is his most recent movie.

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