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Fox, Affiliates Clear the Air in L.A.

Fox and its affiliate body, which have fought bitterly over the sharing of retransmission cash of late, appeared to take a significant step in patching up the relationship during a Fox affiliate owners meeting with network brass on the Fox lot Sept. 13.

Some 57 group owners -- approximately two-thirds of the affiliate ownership body -- turned up in Los Angeles for the powwow. "The idea was to talk about where we're going -- where the network is going, and how the stations can be a part of that," says Jon Hookstratten, executive vice president of Fox networks distribution. "I think it was a good exchange."

Attendees say the tough terms of their affiliate agreements will not change as a result of the meeting. But the communication lines were wide open, and they appreciated the face time with network brass, including Chase Carey, Mike Hopkins and Peter Rice, as Fox articulated its plan for the future. "It was a who's who of Fox executives," said one attendee.

Notably, Brian Brady, the Fox affiliates board chairman who's battled vociferously with the network on affiliation agreement issues in the past, spoke positively of the meeting. "It was a free flowing exchange of ideas," says Brady. "I believe the affiliates are 100% behind modernizing the broadcast business model, and working toward a mutually profitable partnership in the future."

Neither Hookstratten nor Brady would share new developments stemming from the meeting.

With some high-profile shows set to debut, including X Factor and Terra Nova, Fox and its affiliates need each other to make the most of the program launches. Part of the meeting was dedicated to the new programs and other entertainment matters.

Broadcasters such as Sinclair, Titan Broadcast Management and Fisher were said to be represented in the room, as was Nexstar chief Perry Sook, who's had multiple stations split with Fox over affiliation terms. Attendees say the wingding was free of the sniping that's characterized meetings between Fox and its affiliates in the recent past, such as the marathon session coinciding with the annual NAB meeting last April in Las Vegas. "Everyone said, we have to get this figured out," says one attendee. "It's not good for the business, it's not good for Fox, it's not good for the affiliates, it's not good for the banking community. I think we buried the hatchet."

Hookstratten agrees. "We needed to get everyone in the room together," he says, "and talk about how we can work together in the future."