Nets fight back in ownership battle

Spotlighting the ever-widening gap between the networks and their affiliates on the issues of ownership caps, program distribution and localism, CBS, NBC and Fox have urged the FCC to allow more concentrated media ownership under new rules, while charging that affiliate TV stations have created red herring arguments in favor of maintaining the current 35-percent cap on station ownership.

The networks, in an FCC filing, said the stations - under the auspices of the NAB and the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance - have made arguments that are “unsupported, ill-considered and irrelevant.”

The networks contend:

- that the networks’ owned-and-operated station managers are given equal, if not more, credence when advising corporate officials on local programming needs

- that while affiliates emphasize their willingness to preempt network programs for local shows, the networks counter that such preemptions are a rarity at all stations. When it does happen, the networks said, it’s more likely for infomercials than local programming.

- that claims that multiple ownership increases negotiation leverage is not true. In reality, bargaining leverage varies market-by-market.

Responding, the stations argued that two economic studies, a survey of stations and other analysis showed that affiliates perform better than O&Os when it comes to addressing local needs. They also said that affiliates are becoming increasingly limited by network contracts that prohibit the preempting of national program feeds.

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