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

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Members of the Writers Guild of America West met with Federa Communications Commission commissioner Michael Copps Tuesday to pitch him on a set-aside for independent programming in the proposed Comcast/NBC Universal 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 WGAW 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 been asking the FCC for years 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 team.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski 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, 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.

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

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