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Showbiz Issues Take Back Seat In D.C.

The nation’s capital became a ghost town Tuesday as Hollywood lobbyists and media functionaries absorbed the impact that twin terrorist attacks on Washington and Gotham will have on politics, showbiz and everyday life.

Schedules that were jam-packed with hearings and meetings early Tuesday were erased by the end of the day. In the wake of an official declaration of a state of emergency, most Hollywood lobbyists headed home early.

Entertainment reps in Washington are a tight crowd, even if they don’t always see eye to eye, so there were numerous phone calls back and forth to ensure that colleagues were accounted for and safe.

Motion Picture Assn. of America president Jack Valenti, Hollywood’s top lobbyist, didn’t want to leave his office – only two blocks from the White House.

“By God, I’m going to stay right here. This is so uncomprehending. I don’t think anybody is going to be looking for entertainment in the next few days,” Valenti said. “But life has to go on. Otherwise, the terrorists win.”

Wednesday, a number of broadcasting execs were scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill and testify before the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee. Issue of the day was to be the troubled transition to digital TV.

Among those on the witness list were Trinity Broadcasting president Paul Crouch, Pax TV president Dean Goodman, Crown Media president-CEO Margaret Loesch and Belo Corp. senior executive VP Mike McCarthy.

With members of Congress whisked away for security reasons, however, the hearing was called off.

Also Wednesday, recording star Alanis Morissette was scheduled to testify at the U.S. Copyright Office on behalf of broadcasters and Internet ventures regarding a new royalty rate for music streamed on the Internet.

Broadcasters and Webcasters, who are up against the Recording Industry Assn. of America, have been waiting weeks to put Morissette on the stand.

Many were predicting that business would remain suspended for the rest of the week. It’s likely that the Federal Communications Commission will cancel a key meeting Thursday.

During that session, FCC chairman Michael Powell was expected to open a public inquiry into whether the regulatory agency should scrap a cross-ownership rule barring a broadcaster from owning a newspaper in the same market.

There was also particular concern Tuesday about American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington Dulles Intl. Airport to Los Angeles, a popular flight for media/entertainment execs.

The Boeing 757, with 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots, was the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

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