Nets jeer affiliates' local news claim

The "Big Four" broadcast networks are jeering affiliates' complaints about a Federal Communications Commission study showing that owned-and-operated stations offer more local news.

In response to a filing two weeks ago by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance and the National Association of Broadcasters, the big networks said the affiliates' demand that stations be compared according to market size comes out in favor of the affiliates only if Fox O&Os and affiliates are excluded.

The NASA and the NAB can show that O&Os and affiliates present the same amount of news "only by manipulating -- indeed, completely ignoring -- data," the networks said.

An Economists Inc. study commissioned by the networks found that O&Os carry approximately 30 percent more news and public-affairs minutes per week than affiliates do.

The NASA/NAB rationale for excluding Fox stations -- that Fox O&Os vary more than average in the amount of local news programming and many were recently acquired from independent operators -- is "absurd," the EI study said.

The NASA and the NAB are fighting the networks' effort to increase the 3 percent cap on one company's TV-household reach.