Big 4 rip indie quota

Nets press FCC to oppose plan

This article was corrected on May 7, 2003.

WASHINGTON — With a major rewrite of the media ownership rules just weeks away, the Big Four nets are attempting to beat back a push by a coalition of Hollywood writers and TV producers to increase indie programming.

The group, known as the Coalition for Program Diversity, wants the FCC to impose a reg that would force the nets to devote 25% of their primetime schedules to indie-produced fare, what some critics regard as a return to the fin-syn rules the FCC axed nearly a decade ago.

FCC topper Michael Powell has said he will not include this request in the sweeping changes to media ownership regs, skedded for a vote June 2.

But just to be sure Powell is clear on where they stand, Fox, NBC, Viacom and ABC filed a 66-page document with the commission late last week, laying out a detailed case on why any resurrection of fin-syn laws are unjustifiable and legally groundless.

Washington attorney Mickey Gardner, who organized the Coalition with Los Angeles attorney Ken Ziffren, called the nets’ arguments a “frantic and frivolous effort” aimed at discrediting the research his group submitted to the FCC showing a dramatic decline in indie programming for primetime network audiences.

Gardner is still hopeful that Powell will reconsider his request and make a concession to indie Hollywood producers and writers during the final weeks of the media ownership rulemaking process. Gardner met with GOP commissioner Kevin Martin to discuss the issue Thursday.

“Our request is inextricably tied to any commission action (on the ownership rules) and it is essential that it be adopted so that 43 million consumers who only have access to network television can enjoy diverse programming.”

Eisner writes FCC

Maryland resident Michael Eisner, who has no connection to the Walt Disney Co., submitted a personal letter to the FCC late last week, imploring the agency to extend the public comment period on media ownership rules for an additional three months.

“I heard about this public comment opportunity through word of mouth,” he wrote. “The major networks have done very little to inform the public of this extremely important issue.”

“The lack of coverage of this issue by the major media companies has at least the appearance of a conflict of interest,” he continued. “This inaction on the part of the major media companies threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the FCC’s regulatory process. This leaves the FCC exposed to litigation that would have to be defended at the expense of the taxpayer.”

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