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Rethink Rule Changes, FCC Asked

Washington—More than 25 petitions demanding the FCC rethink its new, though currently stayed, broadcast-ownership rules were filed at the commission last week. The petitions will be considered independently of the court challenges to the new rules. TV broadcasters led the way with charges that relaxed limits on duopolies didn't go far enough.

LIN Television, Raycom Media and Nexstar Broadcasting argued that, without top-four duopoly relief, newscasts may have to be abandoned in small or midsize markets. The top-four restriction essentially bans TV pairs in markets with fewer than five stations, which accounts for 91 of the country's 210 markets.

Other petitions asked for better rules to encourage minority investment, revising how radio markets are measured, and elimination of the UHF discount.

Tagliabue Knocks ESPN's Playmakers

Washington—NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue lashed out at broadcast partner ESPN's new fictional pro-football drama Playmakers.
"Everyone feels that it's a rather gross mischaracterization of our sport," he told CNN last Thursday. The league and the NFL Players Association, he added, have had discussions with ESPN, but he did not elaborate. Tagliabue was in Washington for the NFL's season-opening festivities.

Early in the show's creation, ESPN apparently approached the league on collaborating on Playmakers, which depicts football on and off-the-field and tackles thorny issues like drug use.

ESPN, however, remains steadfast. "Playmakers is a drama, and the storylines could come from any sport and any part of society," said an ESPN spokesperson. "Professional football is just the backdrop."

After two premiere episodes, Playmakers is averaging a 2.3 household rating.