House lawmakers leading the effort to retain the 35% cap on TV-household
reach claim to have found a smoking gun proving that the network headquarters,
and not local managers, make programming decisions for their stations.
Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) Wednesday asked Federal Communications
Commission chairman Michael Powell to take a hard look at a letter penned by the
general manager of Fox owned-and-operated WDAF-TV Kansas City that tells a community
activist to take complaints about raunchy programming to the network, and not the
"The letter makes a mockery of ‘localism’' and 'confirms that allowing
networks to acquire stations in new markets ... will further diminish the number
of televisions stations that have the ability to broadcast programs consistent
with the values and tastes of the communities they serve," the lawmakers told
Powell in a letter of their own.
The two lawmakers were referring to a note WDAF GM Cheryl McDonald directed
to Tim Maupin, director of the Kansas City chapter of the Parents Television
Council, explaining that his complaint about the June 10 Keen Eddie
episode had been forwarded to the Fox home office.
"The network, not WDAF TV4, decides what shows go on the air for the Fox
owned-and-operated television stations," McDonald wrote in a July 25 letter.
Dingell and Burr -- primary sponsors of legislation rolling back the FCC’s
decision to lift the cap to 45% -- asked Powell to include McDonald's letter in the
FCC’s broadcast-ownership record and that it be given "significant weight" when the FCC
takes up petitions to reconsider its changes.
McDonald’s letter was mailed nine days after GMs from network O&Os
traveled to Washington, D.C., to defend the new cap in face-to-face meetings with more
than 160 lawmakers.
An official at News Corp., Fox’s parent, countered that the network does not dominate O&O programming.
“Our GM’s letter was sent as a courtesy to a viewer and doesn’t fully explain that the network only programs two hours per weeknight on Fox O&Os,” spokesman Andrew Butcher said. “It also doesn’t point out that WDAF produces 49 hours per week of news completely independent of the network. That’s far more than any WDAF competitors, all non-network-owned affiliates.”
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