WASHINGTON — The news for Hollywood in 1985 is that the entertainment industry shouldn't expect many legislative goodies from Capitol Hill, the state's junior senator said Monday. In large part, he added, the new 99th Congress won't be helping out Hollywood because Hollywood got most of what it wanted from the 98th.
Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif), who was involved in several issues of interest to studios, producers and independent TV stations in the last Congress, predicted that there will be "hopefully nothing" in the way of major controversies for lawmakers to handle in this area.
Wilson, who made his comments at a breakfast session with reporters from The Times' Washington bureau, had been involved in issues concerning network reruns and syndication rights and revision of the federal 7-7-7 broadcast station ownership rule into a new 12-12-12 rule.
In both instances, Congress became involved after the creative community and independent TV stations registered complaints about actions of the Federal Communications Commission on these matters.
Wilson predicted that because of changes made by the FCC as a result of congressional concern, neither of these issues is expected to resurface on Capitol Hill in the near future. "I would guess that there will not be anything of the same importance, the same dimension," Wilson said.
The California lawmaker also said he expected issues of interest to the creative community to be less dominant in this Congress because the FCC will be busier with issues concerning telephone service.
"The Federal Communications Commission has got a lot on its plate that does not concern Hollywood, the creative community or the independent television stations nationwide or the advertisers," Wilson said.
In the case of broadcast station ownership, the FCC in December--after consultation with Wilson and other members of Congress--approved a compromise plan to allow owners of broadcast properties to increase their holdings to 12 TV stations and 12 AM and 12 FM radio stations. Added to the FCC's revised plan was a new provision that allows a company to own 12 TV stations only if they reach no more than 25% of the national viewing audience.
Until the FCC acted last summer to increase the number of stations that could be owned by a single entity, broadcast conglomerates were limited to owning no more than 7 AM, 7 FM and 7 TV stations, in order to prevent single-ownership monopolies of the airwaves.
"The major beneficiary in my view of what I thought was a very good compromise on the ownership question is really the American viewing public," Wilson said. The creative community and independent TV stations had complained to Congress that earlier FCC proposals would have put too much power in the hands of the networks.
As for the three major TV networks, Wilson noted that there is a growing feeling of animosity toward them on Capitol Hill.
"There are a lot of people in both parties and both houses of Congress who have felt that the networks have abused their trust," he said.
"We're not talking about somebody making widgets; they have a monopoly," Wilson said of ABC, CBS and NBC. Wilson's comments came in response to a question about Sen. Jesse Helm's (R-N.C.) recent letter calling for conservatives to buy stock in CBS Inc. as a way to exert influence on the network's news operations.
Wilson called the letter "an indication of the kind of anger (at the networks) that is not peculiar to Sen. Helms."
The California lawmaker also said he believes there is a different feeling about newspapers than about the broadcast media, and about television in particular.
"I think there is a feeling that the networks have become so important in terms of providing news," Wilson said. "They're a three-way monopoly. And what that means is that they have had conferred upon them enormous power," he said. While conceding that "it's tough to discharge your responsibilities if you're a television network," Wilson said that "a lot of people feel that the networks have not discharged their responsibilities very well."
In particular, Wilson said that Helms' letter advocating the purchase of CBS stock reflects widespread feeling on Capitol Hill that the network needs "to be more careful, that they need to be more fair. I think there is some considerable feeling that they need to exercise greater care to be fair."