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Fed court greenlights web program stakes

A federal appeals court has denied Hollywood’s request for a stay of a lower court ruling tossing out antitrust consent decrees imposed on the Big Three networks.

Practical impact of the decision from a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is that the networks can start taking a financial stake in TV programs produced by the major film studios and independent producers.

Hollywood’s Coalition to Preserve the Finsyn Rules had asked the appeals court to delay the effective date of Los Angeles Judge Manuel Real’s recent decision overturning the consent decrees related to the financial interest and syndication rules.

While rejecting the stay request, the appellate court also set a timetable for allowing the fin-syn coalition to argue that Real unfairly barred them from presenting arguments in favor of retaining the consent decrees.

The consent decrees were 20-year-old agreements between the networks and the Dept. of Justice under which the webs agreed not to engage in certain practices, including syndication of studio-produced TV programs. The decrees mirrored FCC fin-syn rules that have also been overturned and are now the subject of appeal in Chicago’s U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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