NATPE Needs Independent Voices

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The FCC's Michael Copps made waves at NATPE by decrying the lack of
independent voices in prime time. If medical problems hadn't forced him to
address the confab by satellite, he might have sensed another snub of
independents: the NATPE organization itself.

In the exhibit hall, four rows of majors were surrounded by a sea of
independent producers and distributors. And walking the aisles? Scores of folks
with shows to sell.

Yet NATPE's new board of directors contains no independents.

Why is the NATPE board just filled with big players, when indies are
fueling its membership growth? Why is there not one voice for the independent
producers and distributors who grind out show after show—the hits that have
fueled cable's growth, such as Forensic
and Trading Spaces, as well
as two of broadcast TV's hottest shows, Wife
and The Apprentice?

NATPE's pre-convention ads urged on even the smallest independents.
They turned out in large numbers. Most took their meetings in the NATPE
lounge—but, with just 4,000 square feet, sellers and buyers had to hunt for
space. Some sellers even camped out for the day with logos on their tables (bad

This cramped space also inconvenienced the very buyers NATPE needs for
its survival. Indies with booths were relegated to the “outskirts,” with
majors taking a “not in my backyard” approach. Some erected walls to keep
non-station buyers out. Yet non-majors outnumbered majors by about 10 to 1.

Independent producers count on the huge growth in niche telecasting,
reality programming, domestic cable and international TV to build their
business, and they need a healthy forum to continue doing so. NATPE is happy to
take their registration dollars, but must give indies a voice on the board and
more space to do business. And yes, they should be expected to pay for that
space, if even by the hour. That will reduce interlopers and set a higher

For indies with booths, NATPE needs to mix them in with majors.
Segregating them has eliminated the “middle-class” indie—and made
hospitality suites their only option.

Indies need to grow up, too. Many came to Vegas just to hang out in the
lobby. You want more space and influence? Register!

Because indies are so important as exhibitors and attendees, NATPE must
listen to them—and be more than a way station between other international
television fairs.