H’w’d urges fin-syn reconsideration

Hollywood yesterday asked a Chicago appeals court panel to either reconsider its rejection of Federal Communications Commission revisions to the financial interest and syndication rules or allow the full 11-judge court to consider the case.

In a 21-page pleading, Hollywood’s pro-fin-syn forces argued that a three-judge panel of the Chi court overstepped its bounds when it voted Nov. 5 to toss out new FCC fin-syn rules on grounds that they were “unreasoned and unreasonable.”

Hollywood’s legal brief claimed that the three judges–Richard Posner, William Bauer and Thomas Fairchild–erred by misstating the FCC’s intent when the agency acted in April 1991 to revise fin-syn rules dating from 1970.

In its opinion, the court claimed the FCC eliminated the 1970 rules and devised new rules last year. That contention is disputed by pro-fin-syn forces, who argue that the 1991 regs represent merely a relaxation of the 1970 rules.

The distinction is crucial, since it’s possible there will be no fin-syn regs whatsoever if the three-judge panel’s interpretation is allowed to stand, and if the FCC is unable to meet the court’s April 7 deadline of devising acceptable new rules.

Hollywood, which was joined by independent broadcasters in its petition, also argued that the three-judge panel acted improperly by tossing out the rules.

The FCC voted 3-2 last April to modify longstanding rules barring the networks from investing in or reaping syndication profits from TV shows produced by non-affiliated studios.

It seems unlikely the three judges will reconsider the decision. For the case to be considered by the full 11 judges, a majority of the judges would be required to support such a request.

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