The music industry may benefit from the short election-cycle session of the 104th Congress. The hot topics will be indecency, pay-for-play/payola, media consolidation and the alleged role of peer-to-p

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The common wisdom in this city is that only bipartisan, broadly supported legislation has a chance of passage in a presidential election year.

A short session and even shorter attention spans of lawmakers have always caused lobbyists to sigh and make plans for the next Congress.

Surprisingly, though, there are industry issues that meet at the brightly lit crossroads of public policy and candidate glimmer, and the music industry may benefit from the short election-cycle session of the 104th Congress.

The hot topics will be indecency, pay-for-play/payola, media consolidation and the alleged role of peer-to-peer networks in copyright infringement.

Take obscenity and indecency, for example. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already taken it in the neck from derisive lawmakers for its ruling last year that the "f-word" does not violate the law if used as an adjective in a non-sexual context.

DOING A TURNAROUND

The Republican-led FCC has made a U-turn and now says it will study whether the ruling should be overturned. But that has not stopped legislators from proposing a bill that would ban the so-called "seven dirty words" (Billboard, Dec. 27, 2003) made famous by comedian George Carlin.

Sources say more indecency legislation is on the way by this spring. They also say the industry should expect hearings, and possible legislation, on alleged pay-for-play/payola and tactics employed by the radio giant Clear Channel Communications and its competitors.

What makes this dicey for the GOP leadership is that San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel is among the most lavish campaign contributors to the Republican Party and George W. Bush, who also calls Texas home.

Nevertheless, the loss of localism that media consolidation has caused--whether it is the lack of local on-air DJs or the paucity of local music on radio playlists--has struck a chord with the citizenry.

Congress will probably probe the issue by pondering whether such business practices violate antitrust laws.

MULLING DMCA CHANGES

Also on the legal pads of senior staff, sources say, are plans to introduce legislation to modify the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was written before P2P networks became popular.

The amendment would allow the industry to sue P2P companies for allegedly facilitating copyright infringement that enables users to upload and download unauthorized music files.

There are also pending bills, opposed by the industry, to amend the DMCA to give consumers greater leeway for non-infringing, fair-use activities when using copyrighted material on the Internet or for copying already-purchased material from one private medium to another.

Sources say that during this session, when the waters must be smooth, these bills will go nowhere.