Independent Film & Television Alliance Urges Strong Conditions on the Merger of Comcast and NBC

IFTA President Jean Prewitt calls upon the House Judiciary Committee to preserve independent programming

Washington
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) President and CEO Jean Prewitt today called for strong conditions to protect diversity of programming and varied voices. Representing the trade association for independent producers and distributors worldwide before the House Judiciary Committee, Prewitt criticized the merger of Comcast and NBC for threatening source diversity and the choice of the American people.
“If allowed to go forward, the merger will give the American public far less choice in programming as more channels and distribution platforms are closed to independent content,” said Prewitt in her testimony. “This conflict between a corporate interest and the all-important public interest is at the heart of the larger issue... an issue that cuts to the core of American values of diversity, creativity and the free exchange of ideas.”
Prewitt‟s testimony asserted that investment decisions and regulation rulings over the past 15 years have promoted consolidation and uniformity, undermining all facets of the independent industry and notably damaging the availability of quality children‟s programming. “The public loses when they are limited to „major conglomerate brands‟ and cross-promotable programming produced by the gatekeepers – and are not exposed to the diversity and breadth that independent programmers offer,” Prewitt said.
The merger of Comcast and NBC has implications beyond traditional network broadcasting, affecting newer media that have only recently entered the spotlight, including Video On Demand and Internet Video On Demand through such Web sites as Hulu.com. As independently created programming is shut out of network television, “it is automatically shut out of commercial Internet distribution opportunities that may follow,” she said.
As a result of the merger, “Comcast is able – and apparently ready and willing – to define a marketplace that is merely a closed system,” Prewitt testified. “This is a step that can deprive the American public of meaningful choices in the content it is offered and that will undermine the ongoing viability of independent production in the new media environment.”
Prewitt urged the House Judiciary Committee to recommend strong conditions to guarantee that the merger increases, not reduces, the public‟s program choices and that independent producers will have more access to distribution slots. “Now, as in the past, Congress and the regulatory agencies must make sure that a few media magnates do not determine what their fellow citizens can see and hear,” she said.

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About The Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA)
The Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) is the trade association for the independent film and television industry. IFTA is a nonprofit organization that represents more than 160 members from 22 countries, including independent production and distribution companies, sales agents, television companies, studio-affiliated companies and financial institutions engaged in film finance. Its members include Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Troma, Nu Image, Cinetel, Handmade Films and Fortissimo.
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