Disney Fighting Primetime Mandate

3/11/2003 5:52 PM Eastern

Washington -- Several executives from The Walt Disney Co. flooded the Federal
Communications Commission Wednesday in an effort to block regulations that would
free up some primetime hours for independent producers.

Revival in some fashion of the long-dead financial interest and syndication
rules (fin-syn rules) was deemed a long shot last week by FCC chairman Michael
Powell, but Disney has decided to lobby the issue nevertheless.

"We don't want to wake up one day and find out that against all law and
logic, it somehow got some traction and be kicking ourselves that we didn't come
in to rebut these ridiculous arguments," Preston Padden, Disney's executive vice
president of worldwide government relations, told reporters at a hotel press
conference here.

Padden said he and Disney executives met with FCC members Kathleen Abernathy,
Kevin Martin, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. They also met with Powell's
senior legal adviser, Susan Eid, and Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree.

With Padden were Alex Wallau, president of the ABC Television Network; Mark
Pedowitz, executive VP for programming for ABC; Susan Fox, Disney's VP of
government relations; Dave Davis, president and general manager of WPVI, ABC's
owned-and-operated station in Philadelphia; and Spencer Neumann, executive VP of
the ABC Television Network.

One Hollywood group that includes Sony Pictures Television and
Carsey-Warner-Mandabach wants the FCC to require ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox to set
aside 25 percent of their 22 primetime hours each week for independent

The Coalition for Program Diversity claimed that the rule was necessary to
broaden programming choices for 43 million Americans without cable and
direct-broadcast satellite.

Wallau said ABC was being 'nibbled to death' by 300 broadcast and cable
networks and network-access rules favored by some in Hollywood were

"The whole fin-syn thing to me is so unbelievable," he added. "There has
never been greater diversity of content or quality of content ever in the
history of the medium."

This week, 42 percent of ABC's primetime lineup is coming from non-Disney
sources. At other times in the year, non-Disney programming makes up as little
as 25 percent, Wallau said.

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!