Status Quota At ITV On Foreign Shows

The regulating Independent Television Commission has devised a new formula that will protect domestic tv production while sidestepping U.S. complaints about planned program quotas.

In its recent invitation to apply for new ITV franchises (which begin in 1993), the ITC asked applicants to commit to a 65/35 split between shows specifically commissioned and produced for the ITV web and imported fare (including sports). George Russell, head of the ITC, said the 65/35 split was based on the current ITV schedule.

Should mullify Yanks

The ITC says the formula should deflect earlier U.S. complaints about ITC quota proposals. In a draft code, the ITC specifically called on ITV hopefuls to reserve 75% of airtime for material produced in the European Community. (ITC currently asks ITV companies to reserve 86% of airtime for EC programming.)

The change is expected to neither increase nor decrease the amount of Yank programming on the web.

U.S. trade officials claimed that a 75% quota for EC programming ran counter to the General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs. The U.S. complaint was one of the elements holding up the official invitation to apply for ITV franchises.

“It really was a very serious holdup, which forced people here to try and come up with a constructive and creative new formula to satisfy the Americans,” said an ITC spokesman.

EC majority

In addition to the commissioned/aquired program split, the ITC said ITV applicants must promise to transmit a majority of hours from the European Community, in line with the European Community’s directive on television.

Although the ITC proposal theoretically offers increased opportunities for foreign programming on U.K. tv, it’s considered unlikely that ITV companies will commission many of their programs from foreign producers (apart from the occasional co-prod). “I don’t think many Korean or American producers will be asked by Granada to make a local sitcom,” an ITC spokesman observed.

Similarly, although the EC “majority” quota proposal seems like a backtrack from the proposed 75% EC restriction (and a quantum leap from current 86% EC quota), it is likely that future ITV broadcasters will be called on to adhere to the same mix of local and imported fare as in the past.

U.S. trade officials could not be reached for comment.

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