FCC Unveils 2 Plans to Change TV Rerun Rules : Broadcasting: One would keep most of the business in the hands of studios. The other would let networks compete in the lucrative market.
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday released two sets of proposals to modify rules governing the lucrative TV program rerun business.
Only one of the plans, however, is supported by a majority of the five FCC commissioners. That proposal favors a limited repeal of the so-called financial interest and syndication rules and would keep much of the profitable rerun business in the hands of the major Hollywood studios and independent producers.
Specifically, the FCC’s majority proposal would allow the TV networks to take a financial stake in all of their prime-time programs, although it would bar them from syndicating any shows in which they held only a partial interest.
Instead, the networks would be allowed to syndicate those programs in which they produced in-house or co-produced with a foreign company. But in-house productions would be limited to 40% of a network’s prime-time schedule.
The majority proposal, which is supported by FCC Commissioners Sherrie Marshall, Ervin Duggan and Andrew Barrett, also appears to give some relief to Fox Broadcasting Co.
In a draft proposal circulating last week, the emerging fourth network would have had to cut back its prime-time schedule to 11 hours per week from its current 18.5 hours or stop producing highly profitable “first-run” syndicated shows such as “A Current Affair.”
According to the latest majority proposal, however, a network would be defined as supplying 14 or more hours of prime-time programming per week.
Also, Fox would be allowed to continue producing any first-run syndicated shows it already had on the air before becoming a network.
Fox officials were unavailable for comment.
The majority plan also calls for safeguards that would prevent the networks from withholding the sale of rerun programs from the market or steering those shows toward their affiliates.
Another proposal to modify the fin/syn rules, developed by the FCC staff and supported by FCC Chairman Alfred C. Sikes, advocates a virtual repeal of the existing rules.
It favors a gradual phase-out of the regulations and would allow the networks to compete in all areas with the major studios and independent producers.
Longtime FCC Commissioner James Quello, in an unusual breach of commission decorum, denounced the majority plan with scathing remarks.
He argued that the plan “defies the official record that overwhelmingly supports complete repeal” of the fin/syn rules and “proposes new additional regulatory restrictions not justified by . . . present market conditions.”
The networks and studios have until March 25 to comment on the proposals and the FCC is expected to vote on a new set of regulations April 9.
The FCC had been expected to vote on the matter last Thursday, but the decision was delayed at the request of the Justice Department.