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Stations Seek Pre-Emption Assurance

Network affiliates told key House leaders Tuesday that they want nothing more than the freedom to exercise their long-standing rights to reject network programming and that they do not seek to expand the scope of the right-to-reject rule.

Representing affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC, the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance was responding to networks' May 3 letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, as well as their Capitol Hill testimony criticizing affiliates' request for the spelled-out right to preempt networks shows as motivated "solely for commercial reasons."

But NASA Chairman Alan Frank, also president of Post-Newsweek Stations, insisted in a letter to House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton and powerful Democrat Ed Markey, that affiliates actually are motivated by their desire to turn down shows that would be "unsatisfactory or unsuitable" to local audiences or when an affiliate wants to substitute programming of greater local or national importance. Those arguments are squarely in the wheelhouse of both congressmen. The two were the driving force behind the indecency enforcement bill that passed the House, while Markey has long been concerned about station independence in a mega-media world.

NASA believes that affiliation agreements of all big networks but CBS "impermissibly prevent and hinder affiliates from exercising discretion expressly protected" by FCC rules.