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Internet Is the New TV, Says Hannah Head

Steve Peterman, executive producer of Hannah Montana and a member of the Writers Guild, told a Capitol Hill audience Tuesday that the Internet is unquestionably the new TV, and that Congress needs to make sure that the major media companies don't control access to that new medium as they do to their old one.

 At a hearing on an "Internet Freedom" bill the Writers Guild strongly supports, Peterman told a House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee panel Tuesday that when he began 20 years ago, he could watch "smart, funny, though-provoking" shows like Cosby, Cheers, Roseanne and Murphy Brown. Now, he said the independent companies that produced them have disappeared.

He blamed the "unraveling" of the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules. Those were the FCC rules that prevented networks from having a financial interest in the domestic syndication of programming on their prime time airwaves.

 Peterman said that seven conglomerates now control nearly all information and content, with the Internet the new place for writers to be creative and independent "without getting notes from 30 executives with no sense of humor." He said that not only did the writers strike help send some members to the Internet via content deals, some were even posting content for free for the sheer joy and freedom of it, a freedom he said Congress needs to help preserve and codify.

 While Peterman said Congress needed to preserve that open market, but he added that he did not mean protecting a "thieves market." He applauded efforts by networks and studios to crack down on pirated content. He pointed out that there were something like 110,000 Hannah Montana-related videos on YouTube, "most of which were stolen," and none of which puts any money in his pocket or others involved with the show.

He said the videos got there after some of the episodes he had supplied to Disney last year got into the hands of private citizens and made it to YouTube before they had even aired on the Disney Channel. 

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who introduced the bill Peterman was testifying in support of, has said he is not interested in protecting pirates, and said Tuesday he wished his opponents would stop suggesting he was. His bill would protect only legal content, he said.