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We want free Showtime, too

For proof that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, look at what Adelphia Communications is doing in Los Angeles, one of its most riled-up urban markets.

The cable company plans to hand out coupons good for six months of digital cable, or free access to Showtime, or free pay-per-view movies to its 253,000 Angelino subscribers, according to a statement filed in bankruptcy court. The promotion will cost about $2 million.

Besides fierce competition in L.A., Adelphia faces tense negotiations to renew its operating rights there. Some city officials have even threatened to cancel its franchise. Maybe free Showtime will soften them up.

Sweet inflation

Nabisco is rasing the suggested retail price for a 16-ounce package of Oreo cookies by 10 cents to $3.79 in January.

Kraft Foods Inc., the owner of Nabisco, says the extra dime is to recover the higher costs of wheat, cocoa and other ingredients. Most major Nabisco brands, including Ritz crackers and Snackwell's cookies, will go up, too.

Although only pennies per package, the hike is notable because retail prices on many food products have been declining. In a survey of 11 popular brands from Honey Nut Cheerios to Lay's potato chips, industry analyst David Nelson found that average prices fell 2.4 percent in the third quarter vs. a year earlier. For example, the average price of a 12.25-ounce package of Lay's potato chips fell 13 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $1.90.

Chicago Tribune

The Batmobile loses OnStar

Holy unemployment, Batman! General Motors Corp. is firing the superhero as pitchman for its OnStar in-vehicle communication system.

The Batman television commercials showcased the Dark Knight fighting crime in an OnStar-equipped Batmobile using the sets, characters and curvaceous, jet-propelled black car from the popular Warner Brothers Batman movies. Apparently that approach didn't work. More than half of OnStar clients aren't resubscribing when their contracts are up.

In new radio spots, a man is heard dialing for help from a crash site and a woman calls after locking herself out of her car -- with a baby inside.

"At some point you have to talk about its practical applications," said Jim Sanfilippo of Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc.

Bloomberg News

Never too old to learn

The new archaeology student may look a little old, like he might be one of the university dons.

It'll be none other than IBM Corp. Chairman Louis V. Gerstner, as he heads back to school to study archaeology and Chinese history at Cambridge.

He's fascinated by Chinese history and culture, so retiring at age 60, he decided to study them.

"Particularly, you'll be welcomed by an archaeology department if they think you've got a little money to finance a dig," joked Gerstner, who retires IBM's chairmanship at year's end, after exiting the CEO title in March.

Associated Press.

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