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Tauzin touts talks

Lawmaker plans indies, big four meetings

WASHINGTON — Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) will moderate formal discussions between independent producers and nets about complaints that the big four are not airing enough indie fare.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also will participate in the meetings, which were established in response to arguments by a coalition of Hollywood TV producers, writers and directors who want to increase the nets’ indie programming.

The groups were unsuccessful in their effort to convince the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a regulation that would force the big four to devote 25% of their primetime schedules to indie-produced fare, what some have argued is a return to the so-called fin-syn laws of the past.

McCain made the announcement prior to the Senate Commerce panel’s vote Thursday to roll back key parts of the FCC’s media ownership rewrite.

Tauzin quickly quashed any perception that the discussions were a sign that Congress would take up legislation to reinstitute some form of fin-syn. “He clearly does not support returning to fin-syn,” said spokesman Ken Johnson.

Nevertheless, several groups representing the interests of indie writers, producers and directors, applauded the move, including both the West and East Coast branches of the Writers Guild of America.

Coming together

“We look forward to joining with the network leaders to determine how best to nurture creativity and the broadest spectrum of diverse viewpoints in programming for the American viewing public,” WGA-West prexy Victoria Riskin said in a statement.

Jonathan Rintels, who heads the Center for the Creative Community, was encouraged by the lawmakers’ decision to hold talks. “By virtue of calling the meetings, Sen. McCain and Congressman Tauzin have recognized that this is a problem that needs to be addressed,” he said.

Still, not all those pushing for the set-aside were pleased by the decision to have discussions without legislation. “We need explicit legislation and we need it now,” argued Mickey Gardner, a Washington attorney who organized the Coalition for Program Diversity. “Discussions don’t cut it.”