No satisfaction for affiliates

May 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

A top affiliate representative last week slammed the Federal Communications Commission for refusing to respond to a long-pending affiliate request for an investigation of alleged abuses by their networks.
“The [FCC] Chairman [Michael Powell] promised that this FCC would deal with things expeditiously,” said Alan Frank, chairman of the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance, in an interview last week.
“We clearly think 14 months is long enough,” he said. “For this to sit for over a year borders on the unconscionable.” The affiliate petition was filed on March 8, 2001.
Mr. Frank, who is also CEO of Post-Newsweek Stations, said that in a recent series of visits, three of the FCC’s four commissioners-Michael Copps, Kathleen Abernathy and Kevin Martin-told NASA officials that they believed the agency owed the affiliates an answer.
But Mr. Frank said Mr. Powell, who has the power to determine when the agency responds to petitions, declined to meet with the NASA contingent on grounds that his schedule was already full.
At least some sources attribute Mr. Powell’s reluctance to his purported sense that the petition is too regulatory for his comfort.
But Mr. Frank said the affiliates aren’t seeking new regulations. “All we’re saying is, `Are these rules in effect, and if so do these [network] practices adhere?”’ Mr. Frank said.
For their part, the networks have denied wrongdoing. “We believe business issues between networks and affiliates should be discussed in a private business setting rather than in magazines or government pleadings,” a network source said.
Among other things, the affiliate petition alleges that the networks are running afoul of agency regulations by overreaching in efforts to prevent affiliates from pre-empting network programming.