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FCC Recirculates NASA Petition

The FCC may be finally ready to grant a petition by network-affiliated TV stations to get more control over their airtime.

An FCC source says that one of the dozens of items circulated for commissioner's perusal this week is the long-standing Network Affiliated Stations Alliance (NASA) petition calling for changes to the network-affiliate relationship. An industry source says it looks like the FCC gave stations "virtually everything."

The NASA petition, which has been kicking around the commission for years, got new life back in 2004 after the Janet Jackson reveal brought new legs to the issue of affiliates' ability to preempt network programming .

At Hill hearings on the Jackson incident, some station owners argued that they did not have sufficient notice or freedom to preempt network shows for content concerns and asked for the FCC's help in giving them more control over their airtime.

Network representatives have countered that instead it is a gambit by stations to secure more preemption time so they can air more lucrative sports broadcast packages in which the ad time does not have to be shared with the network.

But after that 2004 flurry, when the item was circulated among the commissioners, it was sent back to the media bureau for more work and has not been heard from. Ironically, at the time, a media bureau source said that "hopefully, it would not be another two years" until the item reemerged. It has been two years and eight months.

The commission has circulated dozens of items in recent days, according to one top staffer, in advance of Wednesday's oversight hearing before the House Telecommunications Subcommittee. They include long-awaited item, a cable ownership ruling, in this case capping cable's reach at 30% of pay subs  and another proposing a new class of leased digital station with must-carry rights .