FCC hears indie plea

TV group pushes U.S. to set fare quotas

WASHINGTON — Amid the flurry of activity leading up to the FCC media ownership ruling just months away, a coalition of Hollywood TV producers aiming to increase the nets’ indie programming brought their campaign to Washington on Thursday.

The producers, who have dubbed themselves the Coalition for Program Diversity, want the Federal Communcations Commission to adopt a reg that would force the big four networks to devote 25% of their primetime schedules to indie-produced fare. The group met with FCC chairman Michael Powell and commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Kevin Martin.

“We had a frank and robust discussion with the chairman and the commissioners and coalition members and reiterated the need for (the new reg),” said Mickey Gardner, a Washington attorney who organized the group with Los Angeles attorney Ken Ziffren.

More broadly, the producers want the FCC to maintain the current ownership rules that bar broadcasters from buying TV stations reaching more than 35% of the national aud and prohibit nets from merging.

The FCC will determine the fate of the indies’ goal when it wraps up its work on the long-awaited rule governing media consolidation, expected some time in June. But the coalition is facing resistance from the networks, who argue that the new reg is a return to the fin-syn rules the FCC axed nearly a decade ago.

Fin-syn rules

Back then, fin-syn regs prohibited the nets from taking ownership stakes in primetime entertainment shows. The coalition argues that the net deregulation led to a tidal wave of mergers and consolidation and the domination of net-owned programming.

To support its case, the coalition argues that indies’ share of net primetime programming has plunged from 67% before the rules were axed, to 24%. The indie backers also noted that more than 43 million Americans over 18 rely on network primetime programming because they do not subscribe to cable or satellite systems.

If the FCC follows its recommendations, the coalition claims that advertisers will reap a windfall because auds will flock to the diverse fare.

Members of the coalition include the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, Cannell Studios, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the Directors Guild of America and MediaCom.

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