For the music, movie, broadcast and technology industries that depend on Congress to oversee their issues and concerns, yesterday’s U.S. election means one thing: status quo.
All Republican and Democratic Senate and House incumbents on the Judiciary and Commerce committees — which deal with intellectual-property and telecommunications issues, respectively — handily won their 2004 re-election bids. Most of them won by margins averaging 70%.
Meanwhile, President Bush’s re-election, coupled with the return of Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas — a critic of entertainment industry marketing tactics who has also pushed for escalated broadcast indecency fines — signal to some broadcasters that there will be a “ramp up” on the indecency issue. Thic could mean more fines in the coming year and even a push to legislate license revocations for repeat-offender companies.
In addition to Bush’s White House win, Republicans held on to their majority status in both the Senate and House. For the music business and the other industries, their government-relations officials will be dealing with veterans familiar with the issues, rather than having to re-tool or educate new members.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who was not up for re-election in the Senate, returns as a member of the Commerce committee. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who put aside his Senate campaign to run for vice president, will not return to Capitol Hill.
The defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., while a blow to the Democrats, is not likely to affect the long-term public-policy agendas of those industries, since he did not sit on any committee dealing with those sectors.
Daschle is a co-sponsor of the content industries’ pending Induce bill, but so is Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Veteran observers say that the loss of Daschle on the bill is less important than the fact that its original co-sponsors are from both parties and must seek consensus — and significant drafting changes — to get the bill passed.
“Frist and Daschle’s names drew attention to the bill, but the fact is, no one’s going to be able to ram this legislation down Congress’ throat,” says a veteran lobbyist.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., currently Senate Democratic Whip, is expected to be chosen as the minority leader. Reid received substantial campaign contributions from the entertainment sector in his successful re-election bid.
On the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was re-elected, to no one’s surprise. McCain must relinquish his chair in January, and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is expected to succeed. Both have been critical of consolidation among broadcasters.
On the House side, all incumbent committee leaders are returning, some for their second or third decade of public service. Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, easily won his seat, as did Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., the subcommittee’s ranking member.
Other familiar figures returning to the House Judiciary Committee include Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, and Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., the subcommittee’s ranking member.