Hollywood Writers Take Net Neutrality to Congress

Say it’s needed to provide security for independent content.

Last Updated: November 16, 2009 @ 5:48 PM

At the same time the Federal Communication Commission was voting to launch a formal process to create a new FCC rule on net neutrality, Hollywood writers went on an offensive in Washington to urge the FCC to act – and to warn Congress about the dangers of inaction.

“Battlestar Gallactica” executive producer Ron Moore, testifying on behalf of the Writers Guild of America West, told a panel of the House Energy & Commerce Committee Thursday that without some action either to ensure net neutrality or provide opportunities for independent content on TV and cable, such content will continue to be under great pressure.

Writers say that after the elimination of financial syndication limits in the 1990s, TV and cable networks have gravitated towards programs that the networks own. The writers see the web as an alternative method of distribution, and Moore suggested the FCC needed to step in.

“There are tremendous pressures on each of the studios to develop programming for their sister networks,” he said. “Studios are no longer looking at the ‘best’ idea. They now are looking for the idea that best helps their corporate siblings.”

The companies, he said, "are doing what makes sense to them financially. However, what makes sense may not be in the best interests of the audience, the television interest or the American people … (they) are run by good and decent people who are working within the regulatory environment they have been given. The danger we face is not that we work for evil men and women — it’s that good men and women can produce evil results in the absence of law.”

WGAW, an early supporter of net neutrality, also issued its own statement of support of FCC action, suggesting the web is just developing as an alternative distribution platform to TV for independent producers — and net neutrality is essential to preserving the platform.

“We believe ‘net neutrality’ will protect the open marketplace that currently exists on the internet and prevent the kind of consolidation that has allowed six media conglomerates to achieve control of traditional media outlets, to the detriment of independent production and diversity of content,” John Kosinski, WGAW’s director of government affairs, told TheWrap.

He said the internet holds great opportunity for writers to reintroduce independent and diverse entertainment offerings, “but the promise of the internet requires net neutrality. “Only in a neutral environment do independent producers have the opportunity to compete with the major media companies on the basis of content quality.”

While WGA urged FCC action, media and internet service providers at the hearing contended there is little evidence of a need for action and questioned not only net neutrality, but existing FCC rules.

“Video competition is thriving,” said Benjamin N. Pyne, Disney Media Networks, president of global distribution “There has never been a more competitive marketplace.”

He suggested the media marketplace had become less not more consolidated.