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MICKEY’S MONKEYING
Disney Sets Mousetrap for AOLTW
After Cable Flap
Don't mess with the Mouse.

That's the message that Disney seems to be sending after asking Federal regulators to impose "enforceable" conditions on America Online's coming purchase of Time Warner. The company filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission stating that they're not opposed to the merger per se, see—it's just that the combination of AOL's online stronghold and Time Warner's cable systems might limit consumer choices by favoring "its own affiliated content." And we thought AOL spent all that money because they really wanted to be able to watch cooking shows and "Law and Order" reruns cheaply. Good thing Disney's looking out for us consumers.

After the skirmish between Time Warner Cable and Disney-owned ABC last week, in which ABC was pulled from 11 cable systems nationwide for 39 hours, this move wasn't unexpected. But Disney spins it as a forward-looking action, anticipating a wired world in which broadband cable will be commonplace, saying that AOL Time Warner shouldn't completely control access and content.

Among the conditions Disney has requested are bans against discriminatory information on cable program guides and the rigging of Internet search-engine information to steer surfers to AOLTW sites. Now, if only Vivid had purchased Time Warner… But enough daydreaming.

In an act of contrition, Time Warner sent a letter to U.S. Senators apologizing for pulling ABC off of its cable systems. The letter was also included with Time Warner and AOL's filing with the FCC that replies to the public comment on the merger. The apology note went on to state that Time Warner simply wanted a break from Regis Philbin.

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