BY JON LAFAYETTE Jerry Kent’s Cequel III is close to making an investment in either a cable or telecom company, according to a company spokesman. Cequel has hired an arsenal of cable executives, mostly from Charter Communications. (Kent left his CEO post at Charter more than a year ago.) Cequel has already purchased a wireless tower company and has looked at several possible cable investments. Rumors surfaced last week that Kent was close to buying beleaguered Classic Communications, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2001. The Cequel spokesman declined to say whether the company is considering buying or investing in Classic. Meanwhile, things over at Charter remain chaotic. Programming guru Patty McCaskill left last week to join her old boss Kent at Cequel, and SVP of operations David McCall resigned Jan. 31, citing personal reasons. Only two of the company’s five divisions have leaders in place. SBC Communications entered “serious” negotiations to acquire DirecTV from General Motors in a deal that could be valued at $10 billion, according to a New York Times report late Friday. Citing people close to the talks, the Times said GM approached SBC, the nation’s second-largest telecom company, earlier this year seeking bidders to compete against Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The report said Cablevision Systems and GE were also “interested” in DirecTV, although to a lesser degree than SBC and News Corp. MBC will announce plans this week for a 24-hour news network geared to African-Americans. MBC News — The Urban Voice will be based in Altanta and produced through an alliance with Florida News Network. Gordon Graham and Val Bracy will be the national anchors. MBC EVP Travis Mitchell said the network is in talks with MSOs and expects to launch in late ‘03 or early ‘04 with about 5 million subscribers. MBC will also launch a nightly newscast on April 4. NBA TV has scheduled five hi-def games and a slate of other programming, but the nascent network has yet to sign a deal with an MSO. That could change soon — a source familiar with the situation told Cable World the league is in “intense negotiations” with Cablevision and Comcast. The two MSOs also own NBA franchises…. Hallmark Channel acquired exclusive domestic cable television rights to a package of live-action films from Disney…. The YES Network took out full-page ads in four New York-area newspapers on Friday asking Cablevision to settle their 16-month-old dispute with an outside arbitrator…. Nielsen Media Research reported that 2002 ad spending for cable rose nearly 5.4% over 2001 figures…. John Tory, CEO of Canada’s largest cable company, Rogers Cable, launched his bid to become mayor of Toronto last week.