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Indie Coalition Lobbies D.C.

Apr 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Limiting TV network ownership of prime-time programming would serve the public interest by putting a damper on the rising costs of advertised products.
That was the analysis pitched by a coalition representing independent producers and advertisers in visits to the Federal Communications Commission last week.
“Ultimately, the American consumer pays the increased advertising costs as product prices rise,” said the Coalition for Program Diversity, in a statement.
Network programming practices and product prices are related, according to the group. Since the FCC eliminated fin-syn rules restricting network program ownership, the major TV networks have relied increasingly on their own low-budget, “bland and repetitive” fare, which has led to smaller audiences for network programming and higher costs for advertisers, the group said.
The consumer gets socked because he or she has to foot the bill for the cost hikes.
“When network audience size decreases due to less diverse programming, advertisers pay more to advertise products, “ the group said.
The coalition, which has asked the FCC for a rule that would force the Big 4 TV networks to devote 25 percent of their prime-time schedules to independent productions, also said that the percentage of advertising revenues that the networks have spent on programming dropped from 30.3 percent in 1994-before the fin-syn restrictions were jettisoned-to 26.3 percent in 2000.
“Reality programming targeted for youthful demographic audiences has become the preferred form of low-budget network programming,” the coalition said. “In this regulation-free environment, the commission’s goals of promoting diversity and competition are being trumped by the networks’ obsession with increased profit margins.”
“Without the option of independently produced prime-time programming, national advertisers will be forced to pay even higher advertising fees for network programming that delivers ever-diminished national audience reach,” the coalition said.
In response, a network official said, “The notion that networks aren’t trying to put the best possible programming on the air is not only absurd but it illustrates the lengths some of these groups will go to twist the facts.”
According to a coalition filing, the amount of independent programming on network prime time dropped from 66.4 percent in 1992 to 23.9 percent in 2002.
Coalition representatives making the rounds of the FCC were producer Stephen Cannell; Jon Mandel, co-managing director and chief negotiating officer, MediaCom; Tom Werner, executive producer and founder, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach; Kathy Garmezy, director, government affairs, Directors Guild of America; John McGuire, senior advisor, Screen Actors Guild and the group’s attorneys, Ken Ziffren and Mickey Gardner
Among the FCC officials that the group met with were Chairman Michael Powell and Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Kevin Martin.