Indies Ask Obama Camp For More Prime Real Estate

Independent Film & Television Alliance wanted a carve-out of 25% of network primetime

Independent TV and film producers want to make sure that the Obama transition team's idea of media diversity includes entertainment as well as public interest programming.

In a letter to transition team co-chairs John Podesta and Valerie Jarrett, the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) made a pitch for prime time carve-outs for TV programming not produced by a network-affiliated studio, echoing its pitch to the previous administration.

IFTA also sent a copy to Obama communications advisor Julius Genachowski, who is considered a top candidate for either the White House tech czar or FCC chairman post.

In her letter, IFTA President Jean Prewitt lamented the decline of the financial interest and syndication rules in the early 1990's, saying that while independent programming accounted for 50% of prime time TV in 1995, that number was down to 18% this year.

The rules prevented networks from owning a financial interest in the domestic syndication revenes of their off-net shows.

IFTA and others had argued for a carve-out of 25% of network prime time for independent shows as part of the FCC's review of its media ownership rules this year and last, but that did not happen. It also wants the carve-out from cable prime as well.

"IFTA's members have seen their access to distribution over first broadcast networks and, now, cable networks disappear over the past decade as the major studios, networks and cable channels have been integrated into a handful of media giants," Prewitt wrote.

Topping the list of requests from IFTA was a new FCC chairman and commissioners who "support principles of openness and diversity in the media, for entertainment as well as public service programming," and perhaps more importantly are ready to regulate that outcome.

Also on IFTA's wish list are opening a proceeding on programming source diversity and media ownership, with an eye toward regulation; making program diversity an explicit evaluation guideline for Federal Trade Commission, Justice and FCC merger reviews; and a commitment to open Internet access.

IFTA is concerned that the Internet is the last, best hope for independent programmers to access to an audience and so wants to insure that its experience with access, or lack of it, to traditional media is not mirrored online.