CBS affils OK advisory members despite net’s wishes

Eye president believes communication must improve

CBS affiliates voted on Wednesday at their annual confab to maintain their current affiliate advisory board, despite pressure from the net to revamp its membership.

“It’s not unexpected. It’s their board to constitute as they see fit,” said a CBS spokesman.

In March, the Eye net urged its affiliates to overhaul the affiliate advisory board that serves as the primary liaison between the net and its 200-plus station affiliates. CBS was angered and felt it had been blindsided when the Network Affiliates Station Alliance, which represents station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, filed petitions with the FCC over alleged abuses of power by the major nets.

“There never was any question that CBS affiliates would be supportive of the board,” said Alan Bell, president of Freedom Broadcasting, which owns CBS and ABC affiliate stations.

In his greeting at the affiliates meeting, CBS affil relations prexy Peter Schruth described affiliates as “the cement under our infrastructure.”

Subtle rebuttal

CBS Television president Leslie Moonves gently chided the affiliates for not giving CBS an advance warning about the petition and said that communications between the affiliates and the net must improve.

“We got a bum rap when we were unfairly lumped in with the other networks,” CBS Television president Leslie Moonves said, referring to the NASA petition.

Moonves said that CBS is committed to “preserving and enhancing the asset-valuations of CBS affiliates” and outlined several issues CBS supports, including “assured transferred of affiliations to qualified buyers,” “reasonable and limited repurposing of network programs,” “reasonable pre-emption caps for compelling local programs,” “a collaborative approach to unused spectrum” and finally, “an agreement to disagree about the station ownership cap.”

CBS is among the nets pushing the FCC to lift the ownership cap, which bars companies from owning stations that cover more than 35% of U.S. TV households. Affiliates are largely in favor of the cap.

Rosy relations

Overall, relations between affiliates and network execs at the Las Vegas gathering was cordial. No doubt the mood at the confab was boosted by CBS’s current ratings fortunes. CBS recently wrapped the season as the most-watched net among total viewers.

“CBS has an absolutely crackerjack schedule for next year,” said Bell. “I have an enormous enthusiasm and zest for what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean I agree with the way they operate with their affiliates.”

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