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Producers Urged to Work With Cable TV

Times Staff Writer

After a year of bitter feuding, James P. Mooney, president of the National Cable Television Assn., suggested here Tuesday that it is time for the cable industry and Hollywood producers to try to work together to prevent the government from stepping in to resolve their differences.

At a luncheon speech sponsored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Mooney urged the Hollywood production industry to start looking at cable TV not as a “viral contagion” but as a fertile ground for increased production opportunities.

And if the studios and other production companies can’t agree with that view, Mooney said the two warring camps should back off anyway to avoid government intervention.

Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, has been sparring verbally with Mooney for months over a variety of issues raised by the deregulation of the cable industry and the resulting impact on program producers. Among the stickier issues are cable’s freedom to raise prices to the consumer, the concentration of power among the cable companies and the copyright laws that allow cable operators to pick up broadcast signals from outside their service area for a nominal fee.

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“There is being exacted an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and blood for blood,” Mooney said of the highly publicized unpleasantness between cable representatives and Valenti, who coined the “viral contagion” phrase.

” . . . But these things have a way of getting out of hand, and I question whether it is in the best interest of industries so politically sensitive and highly visible as these two are to continue to call attention to themselves in this fashion,” Mooney continued.

While acknowledging Hollywood’s concerns, Mooney said the fracas should take a back seat to developing the potential revenue source that cable represents. “There’s . . . an enormous opportunity here for everybody, especially the program production community,” he said. “Program creators should rejoice.”

Mooney’s public plea for improved relations between the groups follows a closed-door session last week between cable and Hollywood studio executives aimed at resolving their programming and financial concerns. Mooney has not commented on the meeting, which took place at Warner Communications Inc.'s New York headquarters and reportedly involved Valenti, Mooney and representatives from MGM/UA Communications Corp., Twentieth Century Fox Film Co., Paramount Pictures Corp., American Television & Communications and Continental Cablevision Inc., among others.

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Without offering any specific suggestions for solving the problems, Mooney called Tuesday for both sides to cool the argument before it becomes necessary for “the political authorities to take control of this dispute.”

“What benefit will result to the studios’ balance sheets if cable is again subjected to price regulation?” he asked.

“While all of us tend to use the metaphor of warfare to describe these controversies,” Mooney said, “it really isn’t like war. Nobody ever wins, nobody ever surrenders; without negotiated solutions, all you’re really doing is diverting attention from the hard business questions and putting at political risk the value of the assets.”


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