PTAR revisions may be raised at FCC meeting

Possible revisions in the longstanding prime time access rule may be raised at the Federal Communications Commission’s Jan. 14 meeting.

Sources said FCC chairman Al Sikes is pushing for including the item on the commission agenda at what would be his last meeting.

The Republican chairman is planning to resign Jan. 19, a day before Democrat Bill Clinton assumes the presidency.

PTAR is a rule dating from the 1970s that requires network affiliates in the top 50 markets to set aside one hour of prime time each night (usually the 7-8 p.m. slot) for non-network programs.

Sikes and other FCC members have expressed interest in a petition from the Walt Disney Co. that would modify PTAR to allow off-network reruns to air in the access slot.

The Disney petition has divided Hollywood: Those studios with successful first-run syndication programs hope to keep the rule intact; those without top-rated shows hope to see the reg revised.

One company that could suffer mightily if PTAR is jettisoned or tinkered with is King World, which distributes “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune,” two powerhouse access shows.

It’s unclear whether Sikes will succeed in placing the PTAR matter on the January schedule.

The FCC chair has attempted to do so in the past, but other commissioners have blocked the item from being raised.

Sources speculated that commissioners James Quello or Ervin Duggan may exercise the right to prevent the item from being addressed immediately.

One reason for blocking consideration of PTAR is the backbreaking workload the FCC faces in complying with the new cable reregulation law and in devising new financial interest and syndication rules.

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