NCTA’s board voted last week to increase member dues by as much as 27% to help fund a massive lobbying campaign designed to change cable’s poor image among legislators and regulators and create a lobbying war chest that is more competitive with telcos, several sources say. The need for more intense lobbying was evident in TX this summer, where SBC and Verizon spent roughly 10 times more than cable in their successful bid to craft franchising legislation. NCTA’s policy is to refuse comment concerning its board’s activities. But we hear part of NCTA’s new plan is to develop a marketing message inside the Beltway, buying advertising in DC-area newspapers, on radio and TV. Mass Ave wants its member networks to donate time for the image spots, something most programmers would not do for CTAM’s "Only Cable Can" marketing campaign. "It’s fine if NCTA wants to buy a spot, but telcos are our affiliates, too," a programmer says. "We’re not running PSAs for DirecTV or Verizon either." On top of the increase in dues, NCTA is asking programmers to pay up to $600K for a DC ad push highlighting cable’s work to combat indecency, sources say.