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Jan 2, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Posted Thursday, Jan. 2

NAB urges FCC to relax duopoly rules, rely on antitrust laws

The National Association of Broadcasters Thursday urged the Federal Communications Commission to radically revise its duopoly rule to let a TV station buy a second station in the same market as long as the acquired station has less than a 10 percent share of the viewing audience.

Under the agency’s existing rule, broadcasters can only buy a second station if the deal won’t merge two of the market’s top-four-rated operations and leaves at least eight independently owned stations. But in a filing with the FCC today, NAB argued that the existing rule is overly restrictive.

NAB’s proposed rule would “provide needed financial relief for struggling lower-rated stations, especially those in medium and small markets,” NAB said. NAB’s plan also would clear the way for duopoly waivers on a variety of grounds, including the argument that a combo would “maintain existing or permit the establishment of new local news operations at stations struggling with the increasing costs of providing local news.”

In its filing, the NAB also urged the FCC to ax a rule that bars daily newspapers from acquiring broadcast stations in their markets. NAB urged elimination of a rule restricting mergers of TV and radio stations in the same market. In a joint filing with network affiliates that’s slated for release later Thursday, NAB is also expected to plead with the agency to retain a rule that bars broadcasters from acquiring TV stations reaching more than 35 percent of the nation’s TV homes.

In a separate filing, Fox, NBC and Viacom urged the FCC to junk the cap — and all its other media ownership rules – and rely on antitrust regulations to police the marketplace. “Continued regulation of the broadcast media, only one sector in a vast media universe, unfairly and unnecessarily constraints very able and effective competitors and stifles innovation,” the networks said. A spokesman said ABC was planning to file separately later Thursday.

Coalition calls for fin-syn reinstatement, ownership cap enforcement: A coalition of TV producers Thursday urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a new regulation that would require the Big 4 TV networks to devote 25 percent of their prime-time schedules to independently produced programming.

The producers, under the banner of the newly formed Coalition for Program Diversity, said that since the FCC axed the so-called fin-syn rules regulating network programming practices nearly a decade ago, network-owned programs have come to dominate the network schedules. Adding insult to injury, according to the coalition, is that the networks regularly demand backend rights in the programming they do carry. According to the coalition, 10 years ago, the networks aired 471/2 hours of independently produced and owned programming during prime time, where they now carry 17. The coalition also said that despite network complaints about skyrocketing program costs, the record suggests that network programming expenditures as a percentage of revenues has dropped from 30.3 percent to 26.3 percent over the past eight years.

In addition, the coalition urged the FCC to reject network pleas to ax the 35 percent national cap and a regulation barring the Big 4 TV networks from merging with each other. “The commission must address the troublesome reality that in the past decade, independent sources of diverse programming have been dramatically reduced as network deregulation prompted a tidal wave of vertical and horizontal mergers-resulting in massive media consolidation,” the coalition said.

At deadline, members of the coalition included Sony Pictures Television, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, Marian Rees Associates, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America, MediaCom and the Screen Actors Guild of America.

Russert to keynote TVB confab: NBC’s Tim Russert, moderator and managing editor of “Meet the Press” and Washington bureau chief for NBC News, will be the keynote speaker at the Television Bureau of Advertising’s 2003 Marketing Conference.

The conference will take place April 15 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. The TVB is the trade association of local television broadcasters.

Jackson latest to leave CNN: Brooks Jackson, the Washington-based senior correspondent specializing in campaign finance reform and political ads, is leaving CNN. Mr. Jackson joined the network in 1990 after a decade as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and more than a decade reporting for the Associated Press.

The news of his departure follows by days the word that veteran financial correspondent Alan Dodds Franks and Miami-based Mark Potter are leaving the all-news network.

A spokesman for CNN would not comment on the reason for Mr. Jackson’s exit; he is not expected to be replaced.

But the spokesman insisted that CNN is not cutting back. “CNN has hired a number of people over the last several months and will continue to hire in the coming year,” said the spokesman.

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