Industry suck-up watch. The question isn’t whether the elections are entertaining – only a masochist could be entertained by the ritualistic onslaught of poorly-made, repetitious, negative campaign ads – but what do the elections mean for the entertainment industry:
- If the GOP prevails, they will take over all of the Senate’s committees, handing the gavels back to senior Republicans. That’s a show that has been seen before, like when the GOP took over in 1994, putting Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at the helm of the Senate Commerce Committee and giving Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee.
Currently, Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., is chairman of the Commerce Committee and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairs the Judiciary Committee.
While Republicans are generally considered more deregulatory than Democrats, a McCain-controlled Commerce Committee could make it a little more uncomfortable for broadcasters.
McCain’s animosity toward broadcasters is well-documented, and he would likely pressure them to give free air time to political candidates and move faster on the transition to digital television. He also showed a tendency in the late days of his previous chairmanship to push broadcasters on content issues.
While Hatch has been considered one of the entertainment industry’s strongest allies on Capitol Hill, lately he has been showing a tendency to side with artists in disputes that divide the industry. A songwriter himself, Hatch has been increasingly sympathetic to artists in some of the royalty issues with which the Judiciary Committee deals.
That’s not to say that Leahy and Hollings haven’t been willing to entertain industry issues, especially in the increasingly controversial copyright arena.
Leahy was one of the lawmakers who attempted to broker a deal among small webcasters, artists rights groups and the recording industry that would have lowered the royalty payment for streamed music. That deal was torpedoed at the last minute by Republicans.
Hollings sponsored an entertainment industry-backed bill that would have given stronger copyright protections for digital content. The Hollings bill never went anywhere, in part because Leahy opposed it as going too far.
While it appears to be a safe bet that the House will remain in Republican hands, at least one change will occur that has ramifications for the entertainment industry. Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., will be forced by House Republican Conference rules to give up the copyright subcommittee, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is in line to take over the panel.
Smith causes some worry because he’s got the Dell computer company in his district. It’s no secret that the computer industry and the entertainment industry have, at best, an uneasy relationship. Having a pro-Dell chairman could cause a lot of heartburn for the entertainment industry.