Coalition: Put indie shows on network TV

Dec 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Bring back fin-syn.
That’s the rallying cry of the Coalition for Program Diversity, a newly formed alliance of guilds and entertainment and advertising companies, including the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Sony Pictures Television, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Productions and MediaCom.
The Coalition is expected to file a brief today with the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to require broadcast networks to devote a percentage of prime-time programming to shows produced by independent companies.
“[The FCC is] deregulating ownership, but they haven’t put a governor on it to make sure that there is program diversity,” said Jon Mandel, president and CEO of MediaCom. “One of the main charges of the FCC is to promote localism, competition and diversity, which doesn’t just refer to people of color. It refers to many different types of programming. They’ve ignored that in the past.
“There are cost issues involved here, too,” Mr. Mandel said. “Advertisers will be getting whacked as a result of deregulation and they will be hurt because these prime-time shows aren’t doing that well. There are a few standouts, but there should be more than just a few.”
Members of the coalition include the Writers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and Marian Rees Productions. Ms. Rees is best known for her TV movie “Foxfire,” the 1987 film done for the Hallmark Hall of Fame.
The Coalition’s move is an attempt to remake prime-time programming, which the coalition contends has become “homogenous and safe” because it is almost completely produced and owned by the networks themselves or in partnership with an exclusive group of producers.
The coalition is essentially asking the FCC to bring back the financial interest and network syndication rules the agency repealed in 1993.
The initiative comes as the FCC considers lifting restrictions on mergers between TV broadcast networks and on the number of local TV or radio stations owned by one company. Such deregulation, according to the coalition, threatens to further stifle the diversity of programming for consumers and advertisers.
The coalition’s initiative would also require that programming created by companies outside the networks be owned by their independent creators rather than the networks in order to guarantee the originality of the programs. The FCC is currently seeking comments on what standards it should set in remaking its rules. The deadline for comments is Jan. 2, 2003.
Working together
Earlier this month, the American Association of ncies combined forces with Consumers Federation of America, Consumers Union and some minority-owned media companies to fight the FCC’s weakening of media consolidation curbs. That alliance is working with the Information Policy Institute, which has been enlisted by the Four A’s to provide an economic analysis of media consolidation. The groups plan to share data and are expected to file joint comments opposing consolidation with the FCC.
Although not part of that alliance, the Coalition for Program Diversity is working toward the same end, including pushing the interests of advertisers, whose costs are expected to rise as smaller media outlets are gobbled up by huge media owners.
-With contributions by Ira Teinowitz