Critics of the FCC's plans to relax ownership rules that currently bar a single company from owning both a newspaper and TV station in the same market spoke out Tuesday at the first of a series of six public hearings the commission intends to hold on the issue. At a hearing held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Congresswoman Maxine Waters spoke out against granting the Tribune Corp., which owns the Los Angeles Times, a waiver to continue operating KTLA when the station's license comes up for renewal on Dec. 1. She read off a list of newspapers and TV and radio stations owned by the Tribune Co., then remarked, "If that's not concentration, I don't know what is." Others noted that programming strategy affecting the station was being calculated in Chicago rather than L.A. Tim Winter, executive director of the conservative Parents Television Council, told the panel, "When the local programming decisions are prohibited by a remote corporate parent, the public interest is not being served." Writers Guild of America President Patric Verrone observed that 20 years ago, 29 firms dominated the entertainment industry, accounting for $100 billion in annual revenue. That number, he said, has now been reduced to six "making nearly $400 billion." Producer Stephen J. Cannell asked the commission to reconsider its decision to drop its so-called syn-fin rules that prevented networks from owning the shows they aired. He told the commissioners that previously he could take one of his shows elsewhere if the network that was carrying it attempted to change content or casting. (He said he had done just that with the classic The Rockford Files.) Now, with the networks owning a percentage of most programs, producers are forced to do the networks' bidding, he said. Director Taylor Hackford asked the FCC to require the networks to devote 25 percent of their primetime programming to independent fare.




04/10/2006