Copps Wants to Set Aside Portion of Prime Time for Indie Producers

Jan 26, 2005  •  Post A Comment

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps is calling for rules setting aside a quarter of prime time for programming from independent producers.

Speaking Wednesday via satellite from Washington to the NATPE convention in Las Vegas, Mr. Copps said, “It is long past time for the FCC to consider and approve a set-aside, like 25 or 35 percent of prime-time hours, for independent producers and creators.”

Mr. Copps, a member of the Democratic minority of the commission who has opposed the administration’s deregulatory directions, said that the consolidation of the industry has led to a small number of companies controlling production and distribution of shows. That’s hurting the television industry and the country, he said.

“Diversity, localism and competition are necessities for thriving American media, and we can’t afford not to have them,” Mr. Copps said. “And your FCC ought to be nourishing these all-American traits. Instead it has been busy subverting them.”

Mr. Copps said public opinion has weighed in against consolidation, leading Congress to reject some of the FCC’s actions. “I believe we have the opportunity to make a difference this year,” he said.

Mr. Copps said he and fellow Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein have begun another round of hearings on media rules. “I intend to have at least one of these forums focus on the needs of creative artists and how best to promote independent programming,” he said.

Mr. Copps said that while the FCC was rejecting a number of indecency complaints against broadcasters this week, the commission “missed an opportunity” to set precedents by explaining each decision individually. “We have a responsibility to provide some guidelines,” he said.

In a panel discussion following Mr. Copps’ speech, Dennis FitzSimons, president and CEO of the Tribune Co., said that because of deregulation, “There have never been more entertainment options.”

Tribune, which owns TV stations and newspapers in several markets, favors the lifting of broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rules.