The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
The CBS/Reagan/FCC saga: whoda thunkit...
So not in my wheelhouse - but the Reagan miniseries farrago got me started on the strange case of the FCC diversity of ownership rules , and it hasn't disappointed in entertainment value.
To recap briefly, in June, the FCC issued a ruling raising the percentage of national aggregate audience reach  that could be controlled by any one company from 35% to 45%. An unholy alliance (including consumer groups and the NRA) took up arms against it, and persuaded both the House and Senate to insert a rider into the Commerce Appropriations Bill reversing the ruling (or something to that effect).
Now, as the unfinished appropriations bills have been rolled into HR 2673 , and timing gets tight, a deal has been done for the FCC limit to be pegged back - but only to 39%.
On the face of it, it sounds as if Hollywood has got the fuzzy end of the lollipop. But - and this was a point of information that should have excited my interest before, had I actually been interested in substantive questions of US TV regulation - one has to look at the numbers (courtesy of the LA Times November 26): ABC and NBC both currently score below the original 35% limit; Fox is at 38%, and CBS - who rolled over on the Reagan controversy - tops out at just 39%. Spooky or what!
The status of this deal is open to question: the Times says it was made between the White House and the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Ted Stevens (R-AK). The Dems are supposedly hopping mad. I'm not clear whether it made the conference report (USA Today November 25 suggests not.). Even if it did, it may be the sort of ballast that will get thrown out of the process at the last moment to make the appropriations balloon fly.
If I understand matters aright, the temporary funding authorisations under which the Federal government is operating in Financial Year 2004  will expire on January 31 2004. Since, in presidential election year, no one (surely?) is going to want to risk a Newt Gingrich-style government shutdown, a deal will have to be done .
Can Hollywood get leverage? Whose palms do they grease? Will the NRA ride into town for a shootout? Is that an Ennio Morricone soundtrack I'm hearing...
I think that's enough FCC, Ed. Probably.
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