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BellSouth offers lawmakers TV time

The company says the invitation to do Lifeline promos is unrelated to legislation it's pushing.

Associated Press
Published April 23, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - BellSouth wants to produce ads featuring state legislators to help promote a phone program for the poor, while seeking approval from lawmakers on several issues, a newspaper reported Friday.

The company sent letters this week to all 160 House and Senate members, asking if they were interested in taping radio and television ads to promote the service.

The offer prompted House Democrats to ask for advice on whether ethics rules allow them to do the spots, while the Senate told BellSouth it can't film the TV ads in any Senate committee rooms or use the Florida Senate logo.

BellSouth spokeswoman Marta Casas-Celaya told the Miami Herald the timing of the $600,000 promotion was unrelated to legislation the company wants. She said BellSouth also plans to tape ads with other civic and business leaders.

Florida Public Counsel Harold McLean, who is appointed by the Legislature to represent citizens in utility cases, said the idea of using legislators in the so-called Lifeline ads came up before the session started. He said he supports it because he thinks many Floridians don't realize Lifeline is a government-approved program.

The program helps poor people get basic phone service, giving them a credit of up to $13.50 on monthly phone bills. The money comes from phone companies and from a fee charged on phone bills.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that gives the Public Service Commission more authority to promote the program and requires reports back to the Legislature. It was sent to the House.

BellSouth is seeking legislation that would prohibit local governments from offering wireless and broadband services, and a bill designed to let phone companies seek a rate increase to recover money after hurricane damage.

[Last modified April 23, 2005, 00:53:03]

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