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WGAW Wants 25% Indie Carve-Out Of Comcast/NBCU

Members of the Writers Guild of America West met
with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps Tuesday to pitch him on a set-aside
for independent programming in the Comcast/NBCU merger.

Comcast has already made commitments to
independent programming and channels as a voluntary condition on the deal, but
the guild wants a 25% set-aside for independently produced, first-run
programming on all broadcast and cable networks, with a carve-out from that
carve-out for news, sports and reality shows.

"To ensure independent and diverse
viewpoints, the WGAW urges the Commission to require that 25% of first-run programming
on all broadcast and cable channels owned, operated or controlled by the Merged
Entity be filled with programs acquired from an independent
producer," they told the commissioner, according to an ex parte filing.

By independent, the Guild means "a studio or
production entity that is neither owned nor affiliated with any broadcast
or cable network or MVPD provider."

That is the same 25% carve out unions and indies
have for years pushed the FCC to adopt as part of new media ownership
rules. That push stems from the commission's dropping of the financial interest
and syndication rules that prevented networks from owning
a piece of the domestic syndication of their first-run programming.

They also sent a copy of their proposal to the
other Democratic commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, as well as the FCC's transaction

The chairman has not yet circulated a draft of a
decision, but could do so as early as the next two weeks for a decision widely
believed now to be made in January at the earliest.

The Independent Film & Television Alliance
(IFTA), which struck the agreement with Comcast last summer
that includes more pitch meetings, development funding and consideration of
independent miniseries and movies of the week. At the time, IFTA said the
agreement "represents forward thinking and a resolve to mitigate any
impact of this Transaction and may be a model for arrangements with other major
media conglomerates."

Just last week, IFTA representatives reviewed
the terms of the deal with FCC bureau staffers and suggested that
a separate proceeding was the proper venue for addressing the broader
issue of access to distribution platforms.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said the commission should
focus on transaction-specific harms and remedies and not try to regulate
by condition.