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WGAW: Few truly indie TV producers

Org takes last shot on caps

In a last-minute shot prior to today’s expected easing of media ownership rules, the Writers Guild of America West has questioned the veracity of how congloms count independent producers.

“We submit that the network filing is inaccurate in its categorization of co-productions as ‘independent,’ ” the WGAW said Friday in a filing to the FCC in response to an April 29 filing by Fox, Disney, NBC and Viacom.

“Any categorization of independent productions fundamentally asks the question ‘independent of what?,’ ” the filing said. “The answer, of course, in this case, is independent of the network. Thus, to include co-productions with the network as independent is to defy the very dictionary definition of the word.”

The guild noted that the networks categorized “Boston Public” as an independent production even though it runs on the Fox network and is produced “in association with” 20th Century Fox TV.

The filing also lists 26 producers with 59 programs as “independent,” but the WGAW said just two producers with three programs can truly be considered independent. It also said the number of independent series on the fall 2003 schedule remains “negligible,” with 98% of programs produced with a connection to the entertainment congloms.

“This concentration severely limits and restricts the number of diverse sources of programming available to the viewing public,” the WGAW said.

The WGAW, PGA and several indie producers have advocated a requirement that 50% of a broadcast or cable net’s programming be produced by a company independent of the distributor or its affiliates. But the FCC is expected to eliminate the ban on congloms owning multiple properties in one market and lift the national cap barring a broadcaster from reaching more than 35% of the national aud.

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