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CBS, NBC Ask FCC to Reconsider ‘Fin-Syn’ Ruling

July 9, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ NBC and CBS have asked Federal Communications Commission to throw out the new rules that keep them out of the multibillion-dollar rerun business, the networks said Tuesday.

The Financial Interest and Syndication rules - called ″Fin-Syn″ by the industry - are ″a maze of arbitrary constraints″ and ″an illogical, unjustifiable solution to non-existent problems,″ the networks said.

The networks’ joint petition asks for ″freedom to compete on an equal footing with the handful of large studios that dominate television series production and syndication,″ according to a news release issued by NBC.

Worldwide, the sale of reruns generates $5.5 billion a year, according to one industry estimate. But since 1970, Fin-Syn has barred the networks from owning the shows they air in prime time.

The networks contend that the rules were devised when the networks commanded 95 percent of the TV audience. Today, that prime-time audience share is around 60 percent, and the networks say they need relief.

In May, the FCC ruled that networks could own up to 40 percent of the prime-time shows they produce themselves, but still were barred from domestic syndication of first-run entertainment shows.

The full text of the new FCC rules issued May 29th ″went much further and imposed several even more onerous restrictions,″ the news release said.

Those included a ban on active domestic and foreign syndication of non- entertainment shows and a ban on network investment or co-production in first-run shows made by independent producers.

″We’re hopeful that it will be decided some time this fall,″ said NBC executive Ellen Agress, who heads the network’s legal policy and planning office. ″We’re hopeful that the wisdom of our arguments will prevail.″

She said the FCC has been known to change its position on reconsideration.

ABC, conspicuous in its absence from the filing, is following a different tack, said Julie Hoover, a spokeswoman for the network.

″We agree with them 100 percent, but it seems to us that we’ve made these arguments more than once to the FCC,″ Ms. Hoover said. ″We decided that the most effective use of resources was to go straight to court.″

Accordingly, ABC filed suit on Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The appeals court, however, will not act on the lawsuit until the petitioners have exhausted the FCC’s ″administrative remedies.″

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