Westinghouse chairman Michael Jordan visited the FCC last week, setting off alarms among TV execs that Westinghouse may agree to kidvid quotas.
The industry has presented a united front against government-dictated quotas. However, some fear that the prospective owner of CBS plans to beef up the web’s commitment to educational kid fare to help speed along the closing of its CBS deal. If that happens, other broadcasters might be forced to accede to the quotas as well.
Westinghouse’s Group W broadcasting arm is rushing to clear regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of its planned $5.4 billion purchase of CBS.
On Sept. 14, Jordan met with Federal Communications Commission chairman Reed Hundt, who has embraced the idea of educational program quotas on TV stations but has been unable to marshal support from other FCC members.
Speculation was rampant in D.C. that Group W is preparing to give in to Hundt’s demand for program quotas.
“This cuts the legs out from under every other broadcaster,” said one industry source. “If Hundt gets Westinghouse to cave for higher quotas, he’ll use it to roll every other broadcaster.”
A Group W source said the company may indeed agree to add educational programming to the CBS lineup. But the source said Group W merely intends to raise CBS’ level of children’s educational programming to that of other networks.
“We’re not playing a hostage game,” the source said, “but we will commit to bringing CBS up to the standards of Group W” and other networks.
Among the obstacles that Westinghouse faces in its planned CBS buy is a petition filed last week by liberal public interest groups complaining of Group W’s lack of commitment to children’s programming.
The Center for Media Education and other watchdog groups urged the FCC to block the buyout unless Group W commits to a plan of providing at least three hours of educational kidvid per week, plus free air time for presidential candidates.
Currently, the CBS network carries only one hour of children’s educational programming a week: the half-hour programs “Beakman’s World” and “National Geographic’s Really Wild Animals.”
By contrast, NBC airs 2 1/2 hours of educational kidvid per week; Fox airs three and ABC two.
Sources said no specific children’s TV proposal was mentioned during the Jordan-Hundt meeting, although the Center for Media Education did come up for discussion.
Also attending the meeting with Jordan were Group W president Bill Korn and government affairs reps.