Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Change in Fortune: FCC Rule Reversal Will Broaden TV Prime Time

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Change in Fortune: FCC Rule Reversal Will Broaden TV Prime Time

Article excerpt

A federal rule that helped make stars of Vanna White and Alex Trebek is heading into its last season.

The 25-year-old rule requires network-affiliated stations in the top 50 markets to reserve an hour of prime time for shows not produced by ABC, CBS and NBC.

The rule opened up time for such syndicated shows as "Wheel of Fortune" ("I'd like to buy a vowel, Vanna"), "Jeopardy" ("In the form of a question, please") and "Entertainment Tonight" ("Back to you, Mary").

The Federal Communications Commission voted 5-0 Friday to eliminate the rule after one year.

TV viewers will not immediately see a big difference in programming for prime time, which lasts from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Central and Mountain time, network officials said.

But the elimination of the rule most likely will enrich the Big Three networks because they will be permitted to sell programs they produce to stations in the nation's largest cities.

Still, no one expects shows like "Wheel of Fortune" to disappear. They are popular with viewers, cheaper than old network reruns and have long-term contracts, entertainment executives said.

The rule was intended to limit the Big Three networks' control over affiliates' programming decisions and to increase the diversity of programs available to the public. But stations decided to show a single program five nights a week in the new time.

***** St. Louis Stations

In St. Louis, the 6 to 7 p.m. hour is covered by the access rule, but only 6:30 p.m. programs are actually affected because local news airs from 6 to 6:30.

When the rule change takes effect in a year, KMOV (Channel 4) and KSDK (Channel 5) would be allowed replace their respective 6:30 p.m. shows, "American Journal" and "Wheel of Fortune," with network reruns if they chose.

Local programmers were not available for comment late Friday.

However, Channel 5 is unlikely to drop "Wheel of Fortune," which dominates the time period with close to 30 percent of the viewing audience. "American Journal" does less well, with about 13 percent of the viewers.

KDNL (Channel 30), which becomes the ABC affiliate Aug. …

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