Hollywood gets together to lobby FCC for rule changes

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood's creative communities have formed two separate but related lobbying coalitions in response to the FCC's decision to review media ownership rules.

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood's creative communities have formed two separate but related lobbying coalitions in response to the FCC's decision to review media ownership rules.

The Coalition for Program Diversity (CPD) includes some of Hollywood's most important guilds and unions, including the Screen Actors Guild, The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Directors Guild of America. Business interests including Sony Pictures Television, media buying agency MediaCom, and independent program producer Carsey-Werner-Mandabach (CWM) have joined those organizations. CWM creates programs including That '70s Show and Grounded for Life.

The Writers Guild of America, West is spearheading the second coalition, called the Center for the Creative Community. This effort includes writers, producers, and actors, including Sissy Spacek, Murphy Brown creator Diane English, and Spin City creator Gary David Goldberg.

"There are very weak boundaries between these coalitions because we all have the same complaints and concerns, and we are all in contact with each other," said WGA West president Victoria Raskin. "There are different suggestions about remedies, but they are all pointing in the same direction."

Over the next six months, the FCC will review policies that currently limit the size and scope of media companies. Specifically, it is reviewing rules that prohibit a broadcaster from reaching more than 35% of US households, and from owning more than one station in a given market. It is also examining prohibitions on owning a radio station and TV station in the same market, or a newspaper and TV station.

The CPD's goal is to lobby the FCC to adopt a rule requiring that 25% of networks' schedules are made up of independently produced programs - those not created and funded solely by the networks themselves.

In filings with the FCC, the CPD pointed out that media consolidation spurred by deregulation in the 1990s has already significantly cut the number of independently produced programs. Sixty-eight percent of networks' prime-time offerings were created by independents a decade ago. Today, that number has declined to 24%.

Along with lobbying, the coalitions have arranged for public forums on the issue at Columbia University and USC. Raskin also added that her organization intends to hire a Washington lobbyist.

"So far, we have been doing the research and filings ourselves," she said. But "we have resources in our budget for activities in Washington."

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