REMARKS OF ABBY DYLAN
Screen Actors Guild SAG National Board of Directors
Chair, SAG Regional Branch Division Legislative Committee
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
PUBLIC HEARING ON MEDIA OWNERSHIP
November 9, 2007
Chairman Martin and Commissioners, good afternoon and thank you for holding this important discussion today. I am here today on behalf of Screen Actors Guild, representing over 120,000 actors nationwide who work in motion pictures, commercials, television programs and all other new media platforms. We are a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
I am on the National Board of Directors of Screen Actors Guild, I’m an actor and I live and work in Seattle. Some of my fellow SAG members have testified before the Commission at previous media ownership hearings in Los Angeles, Nashville and Tampa on the importance of independently produced content in primetime television.
Screen Actors Guild recently filed comments with the Commission, along with a broad range of entertainment unions and independent producer organizations, including AFTRA, PGA, and The Caucus of Producers, Writers & Directors.
My testimony today focuses on vertical concentration in the television and motion picture industry, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of the shows Americans see on broadcast television are not created by independent producers with a variety of viewpoints, but by the networks. The sellers are the buyers, and we believe this has created a lack of diverse, innovative programming on our airwaves. Some of the best television of all time was created by independent producers. Norman Lear brought us new and interesting television with characters and plots that were provocative…and popular. There are hundreds of examples of the contributions of independently created programming. But those days are gone.
In 1993, more than two-thirds of the shows on broadcast primetime television were created by truly independent producers. According to the FCC's own study released this August, this total for the 2007 season is only 12%. The number of independent producers not affiliated with one of the four major networks that provide shows on broadcast networks has declined from 23 in 1993 to two today—Sony and Warner Bros. We believe this compels corrective regulatory action by the Commission.
The unparalleled consolidation of broadcast networks including their corporate siblings, cable networks and and movie studios has given them unfettered control over the primetime airwaves, which they utilize to exploit their market power by either excluding rival programming or by forcing independent producers to forego syndication revenues in exchange for carriage. This vertically integrated dominance over both content and distribution has resulted in a disturbing contraction in the diversity of viewpoints to which the public is exposed via primetime broadcast television programming.
The networks have demonstrated that if left unchecked, they will concentrate more and more programming power in fewer and fewer hands, thereby decreasing the diversity of opinions and points of view available to the US viewers of over-the-air broadcasting.
As members of the creative community, who make our livings in this industry we are being damaged by the decrease in the sources of programming content and the diversity of employment opportunities. Key threads in America's cultural fabric are also being damaged.
You, as Commissioners of the FCC, are charged with a mandate to increase diversity and maintain a free marketplace of ideas. The networks have demonstrated that they will do neither if left to their own devices.
We ask that the Commission adopt our 25% independent programming minimum for primetime network programming hours. We believe that by doing so the FCC will once again be fulfilling its mandate to the American people to ensure diversity in voices on our nation's broadcast airwaves.
On behalf of Screen Actors Guild, I thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. I hope you enjoy your stay in our extraordinary city.