CBS Inc. and a group of Hollywood producers have struck a deal that could end the long fight between the television networks and West Coast producers over ownership of syndicated television programming, a source close to the negotiations said.
FCC rules prohibit the major networks from owning and syndicating television programming. Under the agreement between CBS and the producers, CBS would share in the syndication profits by jointly producing and syndicating up to 3 1/2 hours of weekly prime time programming. CBS could not own more than 50 percent of the venture. The network also would be allowed to syndicate up to 3 1/2 hours of its own programming, the source said.
The agreement would require approval by Congress, which blocked an FCC attempt to repeal the rules over the objections of the Hollywood producers.
The arrangement with CBS, agreed upon two weeks ago, has not been formally presented to NBC and ABC, the other two commercial television networks, but is expected to be proposed to them later this week, the source said.
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, was described as the chief architect of the agreement, but would not comment on the matter. A spokeswoman for CBS confirmed discussions "were taking place." Other broadcast officials could not be reached for comment.
Ira Goldman, an aide to Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), who has been involved in the negotiations, hailed the agreement. "It is good for the public because now you are going to have a greater number of options for program financing and therefore more programming.
"There was no reason to keep the networks out of joint ventures with Hollywood; it is in everybody's interest to allow this," he said.
Wilson was involved in urging talks between CBS Inc. Chairman Thomas H. Wyman and motion picture producer Lew Wasserman, chairman of MCA Inc., after negotiations broke down in January 1984. Those talks ended when the three networks failed to win repeal of the rules on Capitol Hill.
ABC has consistently opposed any limits on in-house production of programming, Goldman said. But since it is to be taken over by Capital Cities Communications Inc., it may be more interested in a compromise. "And NBC is the swing vote here. Nobody knows if this is what they want to do," Goldman said.