Wanted: new kind of trade org

Desperately seeking: A vertically integrated trade organization.

I’m a professional, articulate, 50ish lobbyist who works for an entertainment conglom, America One World.

Whoops, I forgot, it’s now AOW Watch Corp., thanks to another one of those media megamergers you may have read about.

You’re well-rounded, spontaneous, adaptable and consolidation-friendly. You’re a 21st-century kind of trade org, able to converse simultaneously in the language of the Internet, retransmission consent, digital TV, Napster, copy protection, movie ratings, high-speed cable modems, international piracy and boffo busts. You’re also fluent in French.

The good old days

Ah, life used to be simple for the studio lobbyist, who hung out exclusively at the Motion Picture Assn. of America, repping the interests of the pic biz. Period.

But things have changed, thanks to massive consolidation. Many studios now are owned by entertainment/media congloms that have broadcast, cable, music, technology and Internet interests.

Subsequently, lobbyists are card-carrying members of several trade orgs, including the National Assn. of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. and the Recording Industry Assn. of America

Things can get pretty dicey, since these associations often have competing interests. Lobbyists who get along just fine at the MPAA might be at war on other fronts.

Take the real-life marriage of AOL and Time Warner.

During the many months the merger was under review by Washington authorities, Walt Disney exec veep Preston Padden led the battle opposing the union. All the while, Padden and Time Warner lobbyists had to get along when doing MPAA business.

Or there might be a situation in which a conglom is actually fighting itself, via the various trade associations.

Such is the case for two divisions of AOL Time Warner — Warner Music Group and AOL Music, who are on opposite sides of an acrimonious legal battle over setting a new royalty rate for music streamed on the Internet.

Warner Music is lined up behind the Recording Industry Assn. of America in a proceeding at the U.S. Copyright Office. AOL Music, which focuses on Internet delivery, is testifying on behalf of broadcasters and Webcasters who say the major labels are trying to monopolize the market by setting the royalty rate too high.

Hollywood lobbyists lately have found themselves in other weird positions.

As it stand now, only one of the Big Four nets — ABC –remains a member of the National Assn. of Broadcasters. In resigning, CBS, Fox and NBC said they couldn’t be part of a trade org that’s actively working against their interests.

Specifically, the NAB is fighting to retain a Federal Communications Commission ownership cap that bars the big broadcasters from reaching more than 35% of the national audience.

Nets are asking a federal appeals court in Washington to overturn the cap.

So how’s this for a twist: All the parent companies of the Big Four have cable interests, hence are members of the National Cable Television Assn. Loosely speaking, then, the NCTA boasts more broadcasters among its ranks than does NAB.

As for finding the perfect, integrated trade organization, the faint of heart need not respond. If synergy is the name of your game, please send dossier and photograph. No calls, please.

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