Affils press case against nets with FCC

NASA attempting to ensure licensee control over local p'gramming

WASHINGTON — Affiliates on Wednesday once again urged the Federal Communications Commission to punish the Big Four for lording over local programming and station business.

The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance (NASA), which represents more than 600 ABC, CBS and NBC affils, filed another round of docs with the FCC in building their case against the nets.

NASA’s original complaint, filed earlier this year, accused the nets of strong-arming affils when it comes to what program to air and the sale of stations, among other things.

“Whether the commission applies its existing rules that ensure licensee control of local television stations will have serious implications not only for the television service available to the American people today, but for the digital future,” NASA said in its filing.

So far, the FCC has refused to step in and actively investigate whether the nets have violated any rules. Rather, the reg agency has agreed to take comments in the matter.

Last month, the Big Four filed their own set of papers with the FCC, arguing that there is no merit to the affiliate complaint. They said the marketplace is doing just fine in terms of the net-affil relationship, and that there is no need for Washington to involve itself.

Tenuous time

There is little doubt that it is a tenuous time for affils, who are nervous that a federal appeals court might overturn a national ownership cap prohibiting a broadcaster from reaching more than 35% of the national audience.

If the FCC reg is struck down, there would be nothing to stop some among the Big Four from expanding their reach by buying up stations.

Some in the TV biz have speculated that the NASA complaint is an attempt to rally support for independent stations in case the court sides with the Big Four in removing the ownership cap from the books.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox could not be reached for comment regarding NASA’s filing, which came early Wednesday evening.

“Because of the damage being done to the American public every day that these issues are not resolved, the affiliates request that the commission promptly move forward to resolve them,” NASA filing said.