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NBC Quits Broadcasters Group in Dispute on Ownership Limits

March 08, 2000|From Bloomberg News

General Electric Co.'s NBC network and its 13 local television stations pulled out of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, the industry's chief trade group, in frustration over the organization's support of station ownership limits.

NBC and the other broadcast TV networks--Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, News Corp.'s Fox and CBS Corp.--favor lifting a restriction that prevents companies from owning TV stations that reach more than 35% of U.S. television households. The association, whose board is made up of several station group owners, opposes further relaxation of the rule. Fox withdrew its membership from the group in June over the issue.

"The [association] has chosen to either stand on the sidelines, drag its feet or flat out oppose the changes that NBC seeks," NBC President Bob Wright said. "We find ourselves with no other alternative."

The dispute over the association's position on ownership rules is another sign of growing tensions between the networks and station group owners. The networks are pushing their affiliates to help pay for escalating programming costs, and some groups are concerned that further consolidation in the industry would weaken their leverage in negotiations.

NBC's withdrawal from the group was expected. Last week, the association revoked NBC's seat on its board when the network failed to pay its dues. In addition to the dispute over the ownership rules, NBC was seeking to cut its payment to $200,000 from $400,000.

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