Upfronts 2009: Fox Affils Board Sees Ally in Rice

Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage from B&C

Related: Fox's Peter Rice Adds Voice To Broadcast Vs. Cable Battle

Affiliates don’t often see eye to eye with their partner network, but the Fox affiliates board has voiced full-throated enthusiasm for new entertainment chairman Peter Rice. The board met Sunday to discuss, among other things, Fox’s fall plans, the Ross bill pertaining to market modification being drafted in Washington, and keeping network shows on broadcast television.

Fox affiliates board chairman John Tupper says Rice is an extraordinarily executive who’s doing his best to learn the intricacies of broadcast television—including listening to his affiliates board.

“It is our collective observation that Peter is extremely bright and engaging and open-minded,” says Tupper. “He probably will, in the not too distant future, emerge as one of the main strategic leaders in network television.”

Tupper gave Rice, who comes from a film background at Fox Searchlight, high marks for his willingness to learn. “He’s one of the few corporate executives at that level who’s willing to have an open exchange,” says Tupper, “and let others know what he doesn’t know.”

Tupper says there was an “open and frank discussion” with network brass regarding the board’s concern about programs migrating to cable. While Fox Networks Group chairman Tony Vinciquerra was not in attendance, Tupper says Rice and the others were receptive to their anxiety. “There was real progress toward increased communication between the board and the network,” says Tupper.

For his part, Rice threw his support behind broadcast television on a conference call with reporters Monday. "Broadcast TV still remains supreme and that's why we have to keep investing in creativity,” he said.

The directors also spent a fair amount of time discussing the proposed bill from Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, which would pave the way for cable and satellite providers to retransmit in-state TV signals in split markets. The so-called “Ross bill” would waive the nonduplication rules in that instance, and would not allow retransmission deals to be written to prevent distant signal importation to adjacent "underserved" areas.

Broadcasters have been trekking to Washington en masse to voice their concern for the bill. Tupper says the board discussed “how disastrous it would be to our operation.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.