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NASA Cites Net Progress

Big Four affiliates are telling the FCC they have made recent progress in their talks with networks over the balance of power between them and are looking for more progress in the next 10 days.

The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance, which formally complained to the FCC in March 2001 about what it said were network strong-arm practices and onerous affiliation contracts, filed an interim report Friday saying that they have no more issues with CBS (they were resolved in 2002); that ABC and Fox have, in the past few weeks, resolved some, but not all, of the outstanding issues; and that NBC has "failed to resolve any of the issues."  

NASA is specifically citing NBC affiliation agreements that it says continue to prevent preemptions for content calls unless those calls are based on "a substantial difference between the relevant program's style and content and the style and content of other NBC programs previously broadcast by the station." NASA has complained, for instance, that the restriction would bar stations from preempting a particularly gross episode of Fear Factor. It also says NBC restricts program substitution for "greater local or national importance" to breaking news. NBC wasn't commenting.

The FCC, which has been notable for its inaction on the petition, has been working on it in earnest after pressure from legislators were told during by broadcaster during hearings on indecency that some stations didn't feel free to preempt indecent content because of restrictions in their affiliation agreements.

NASA said it hoped to resolve the lingering issues with Fox and ABC before it files an update in 10 days. It suggested no such sanguine outlook for talks with NBC.