Having watched Hollywood help bankroll Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and pitch the wildest inauguration bash in memory, D.C. insiders are asking: What does Tinseltown want in return?
The answer: plenty.
It will take months to find out what, if anything, the new president delivers. But what seems immediately clear is that, after being feted by Quincy Jones & Co. at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday night and by Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson et al. at the presidential gala Tuesday night, Bill and Hillary are poised for a remake of the Reagans’ Hollywood on the Potomac, baby boomer style.
Some of Clinton’s entertainment industry chums have already cashed in on their connections. TV producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason were invited to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House last night. (Lincoln never actually slept there, but that didn’t stop the Washington Post from calling the Lincoln bed “the ultimate perk for a president’s pals.”)
FCC area of concern
In terms of policy, one area where Clinton could reward Hollywood is at the Federal Communications Commission, where the seats of Republicans Al Sikes and Sherrie Marshall are waiting to be filled.
For the umpteenth time, the FCC is reviewing the status of Hollywood’s treasured financial interest and syndication rules. Given the tortured history of the rules– which limit a TV network’s ability to profit from the syndication of programs produced by studios– it’s hardly beyond the realm of possibility to think that Clinton might pay back Hollywood with his FCC appointments. Without leaving fingerprints, of course.
Network exex who have been outmaneuvered in the past on fin-syn are especially alarmed over Clinton’s potential FCC appointees. Sez one web lobbyist: “The question is: Can Clinton say no to Hollywood?”
On other issues, Clinton has already signaled his intent to reverse the Reagan-Bush attack on the National Endowment for the Arts, a decision sure to delight left-leaning Hollywood. The new prez says he’s against NEA restrictions on arts grants based on content. Whether that translates into hefty funding increases for the NEA remains to be seen.
Investment tax credits for the film industry might be another bone that Clinton can toss to the studios.
Some red flags
There are some industry battles on which Clinton might want to stay neutral. One topic involves the issue of film labeling, the epic squabble that pits the well-oiled Motion Picture Assn. of America against directors, cinematographers and screenwriters on whether viewers should be notified in advance if pix are materially altered.
The MPAA prevailed in the labeling fight last year, but prominent directors such as Clinton backer Warren Beatty are hardly tossing in the towel.
Getting out the message
Tuesday night, writers and directors sent an even stronger message by hosting a pre-inaugural ball buffet for members of Congress. The event was designed to show lawmakers that the creative community is “establishing an identity separate from the MPAA,” according to a spokeswoman for the Writers Guild of America West.
In other words, beware, Mr. President.