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A government agency weighed in on the side of television networks Wednesday in a debate over rules that largely prevent broadcasters from owning the shows they air and from cashing in on the lucrative syndication and rerun business.

The Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Economics recommended that the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates television, repeal existing rules prohibiting networks from gaining a financial interest in programs produced by others. In making the call, FTC is essentially backing the networks against Hollywood producers who want to maintain the present rules and keep the $3 billion syndication business to themselves.

There was no immediate comment from the FCC, which is conducting hearings on whether to change the 20-year-old rules.

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