- Prime Time Access Rule
The Prime Time Access Rule (PTAR) was instituted by the
Federal Communications Commission(FCC) to restrict the amount of network programming that local television stations owned by or affiliated with a network may air during " prime time".
The first PTAR was issued in 1970 and was implemented at the beginning of the 1971-1972 season; it was re-examined periodically and has undergone several modifications since its initial issue.
Most recently, the PTAR applied only to network-owned or -affiliated stations in the 50 largest markets. It restricts these stations to airing no more than three hours of network programming during the four-hour prime-time block each evening and establishes the first hour of prime time as the "access hour."
The PTAR was instated because of the concern that the three major
television networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC- dominated the program production market, controlled much of the video fare presented to the public and inhibited the development of competing program sources. The FCC believed that instilling PTAR would ultimately increase the level of competition in program production, reduce the networks’ control over their affiliates’ programming decisions, and thereby increase the diversity of programs available to the public.
The most recent policy of the PTAR was that stations in the top-50 prime time television markets cannot air more than three hours of network programming during the four-hour “prime time” block. Stations had to find original programming to fill during the “prime time” fraction. However, the rule exempted certain types of programming, including the following: runovers of live sports events, special news, documentary and children’s programming, and certain sports and network programming of a special nature. To comply with PTAR, most local television stations presented at least one syndicated
game showbetween 7 and 8 PM; other programming that was seen in these time slots were revivals of " Hee Haw" and " The Lawrence Welk Show".
The PTAR was eliminated effective August 30, 1996, the commission having determined it was "no longer necessary" as a tool to promote independent production or affiliate autonomy. [ [http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Mass_Media/News_Releases/nrmm5085.txt FCC Repeals PTAR Rule] , FCC press release, July 28, 1995.] While the major networks have not reclaimed the traditional "access" period in early primetime, this is most likely due to pressure from affiliates to retain control of one of the more profitable parts of their schedules, and not any regulation. Several syndicated shows, such as "Wheel of Fortune" and "
Jeopardy!", have earned audiences equal to or greater than network shows.
Smaller networks such as PAX TV began programming full 24-hour schedules after the ruling.
Schurz Communications, Incorporated v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America
Telecommunications Act of 1996, issued at the same time as PTAR was repealed
* [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/P/htmlP/primetimeac/primetimeac.htm Museum of Broadcast Communications article on PTAR]
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