Creative Voices Seeks FCC Carve-Out for Indie Productions

Center for Creative Voices in the Media Files Comments on Federal Communications Commission's Localism Proceedings

A group representing TV producers, actors and others from Hollywood joined with Catholic bishops, the Campaign Legal Center and various anti-media-consolidation activist organizations to ask the Federal Communications Commission to impose additional public-interest requirements on broadcasters who want a fast track to a new license.

In a filing in the FCC's localism inquiry, the Center for Creative Voices in the Media -- whose voices include Steven Bochco, Tom Fontana and Vin Di Bona -- want the FCC to require broadcasters that want expedited license renewals to set aside 1% of their airtime for unpaid public-service announcements, have no more than 30% of their airtime be infomercials or home shopping and air a "reasonable amounnt" of independently produced programming.

By reasonable, they mean at least 25% of a network affiliates' primetime devoted to programming in which the network owns more than a one-third interest in the show or controls the copyright.

That is a key issue for TV producers, some of whom argued that they can't get shows on the networks without giving up a hefty equity interest.

The groups also want the commission to require more programming about elections and civic affairs and come up with "clear definitions" of what qualifies.

And they want the FCC to reduce license terms to three years from eight and commit to acting on petitions to deny license renewals within 180 days.

One of the petitioners, the United Church of Christ, reminded the FCC that in 2004, it filed petitions to deny renewals of two Washington, D.C., TV stations for failure to provide adequate children's programming and a second against a Cleveland stations in 2005. To date, UCC said, none has been acted on. "It is unreasonable for the commission to expect public participation in the license-renewal process if the commission fails to act on petitions to deny in a timely manner," the groups said.

"We urge the FCC to adopt processing guidelines for television-station-license renewals; enhanced disclosure requirements for analog, as well as digital, radio; increase opportunities for public participation and dialogue; and to provide incentives for public participation by reducing the length of license terms and acting promptly on petitions to deny," they concluded.

They are not saying that broadcasters who don't comply should be denied license renewals, just that those who do comlpy get expedited renewals.

April 28 was the deadline for filing comments in the FCC's localism proceeding, where it is proposing new processing guidelines, reporting requirements and other new benchmarks for the renewal of TV and radio station licenses. Reply comments are due June 11.