ABC Stations Oppose Pre-Screening Mandate

ABC TV Affiliates Association Tells Federal Communications Commission Network, Stations Have Understanding on Scripted Fare

ABC affiliates said they don't want the government forcing networks to provide screeners of their shows to stations before they air.

The Federal Communications Commission, partly addressing concerns once raised by an alliance of network affiliates, pondered as part of a localism proposal to help wrap up review of media-ownership rules whether it should require networks to send stations previews of their programming before air.

In a filing Monday at the FCC, the ABC TV Affiliates Association said no, pointing out that the affiliates’ contracts contain the right to reject unsuitable programming. Advance notice is obviously key to that right, and the stations said ABC has given it to them, with the exception of reality programming, which the network said sometimes isn't finished until only a few hours before airtime. The logistics of previewing those shows "underscores the practical concerns that may be implicated by a mandatory rule," the ABC affiliates told the commission.

"As a matter of practice in recent years," the stations said in a filing obtained by B&C, "[ABC has] given its affiliates advance notice of the nature of network programs and has provided a reasonable opportunity for affiliates to preview programming that may present questions in terms of its suitability for all audiences."

That includes feeding scripted pilots two or three days before airtime, plus episodes of shows or movies with visual or oral warnings in addition to their TV14 ratings. ABC does not pre-feed sports, news, live events, specials, or reality shows.

An alliance of network affiliates long argued that they did not have sufficient notice on programming that could get them into trouble with the FCC -- an issue that came into sharper focus after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl reveal.

But in July 2004, only a few months after the Super Bowl, ABC and its affiliates came to a meeting of the minds in new affiliation agreements.