Affiliates to FCC: Refine Big Four focus


Network affiliates Friday asked the FCC to narrow its investigation of alleged misdeeds against TV stations committed by the Big Four nets.

Rather than examining a long list of complaints initially levied against the networks and deciding whether new rules are needed to govern affiliate/network relations, the agency should focus on three areas where the nets are regularly violating the law, said the Network-Affiliated Stations Alliance. "We're hoping to simplify things," said NASA attorney Jonathan Blake. "It looked as it the examination of our full request would take a long time and we think the way to deal with that problem was to ask the FCC to zero in on these three issues."

Specifically, the NASA's petition, originally filed in March, charges that nets violated restrictions in the following areas:

  • Right to refuse. For example, NBC attempted to forbid affiliates from preempting the first game of the American League Division Series with coverage of the first 2000 presidential debate.
  • Time Optioning. Fox has demanded control of stations' multiple digital signals without offering any specific programming.
  • Licensee control. NBC, ABC and Fox have tried to prevent affiliation transfers resulting from station sales.

In March, NASA also asked the FCC to ban other "improper" practices that don't violate any specific rules, such a pressuring affiliates to use the networks' Voter News Service venture rather than independent services. Other practices the affiliates oppose include "repurposing" programs on network websites or cable channels rather than on affiliates and giving network-owned stations more leeway to reschedule network programming. - Bill McConnell