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Show Biz Issues At Stake in Election 2012

Performers including Bruce Springsteen, Jay Z and Ricky Martin
appeared for President Obama, and Kid Rock and Meat Loaf stumped for
Mitt Romney in the final day of the 2012 presidential race on Monday,
but there is much more at stake for showbiz in this election than stars
and their political stripes.

While a second Obama term would
signal status quo on a whole host of industry-related issues, a Romney
win would have implications for arts funding, public television,
indecency enforcement, media consolidation and net neutrality.

A
power shift could mean reorienting lobbying strategy on some issues in
D.C., particularly for an industry in which virtually all of the studio
chiefs have contributed to the Obama campaign. And even beyond
showbiz-centric issues, industry activists would find themselves, at
least initially, without significant White House contacts, the kind of
access over the past four years that has seen George Clooney, Brad Pitt
and others gain entree to the Oval Office to discuss signature causes.

Here’s a rundown of the significant areas that could be affected by the results of Tuesday’s election:

FCC chairman:
There is some expectation that even if Obama wins re-election, Julius
Genachowski will step down as chairman, given the past tendency of
agency chieftains to see a second term as a jumping-off point. If Romney
wins, he will be able to obtain an FCC Republican majority and appoint a
new chief. Current commissioner Robert McDowell is one of the names
mentioned, as well as communications attorney Bryan Tramont and John
Kneuer, former head of the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration.

Net neutrality: Many Republicans detest the
FCC’s net neutrality rules as interfering with a bright spot of the
American economy, and a GOP-dominated FCC could rollback regulations or
eliminate them altogether. They would be reopening a can of worms, but
the GOP saw the issue as important enough to include in their party
platform. And even if Obama is re-elected, the FCC may have to grapple
with it anyway. Verizon is challenging the open Internet guidelines in
court on the grounds that the FCC lacks the authority to implement them.

Spectrum:
One of Genachowski’s signature initiatives has been the expansion of
broadband infrastructure, and a part of that has been freeing up
spectrum from broadcasters for wireless use. Although broadcasters have
been wary of plans toward voluntary incentive auctions, Congress sees
them as a way to collect additional revenue to pay down the deficit. A
Romney administration would oversee the first of these auctions,
currently expected in 2014, and while it would be difficult to turn back
the clock given bipartisan passage, broadcasters are closely watching
to see that their reach is preserved as details are worked out.

Piracy:
In campaign rhetoric, Romney has pledged to get tough on China, and has
even slammed Obama for not doing enough to protect intellectual
property there. But it’s uncertain how much different Romney’s approach
to piracy would be to Obama’s. The present administration has emphasized
crackdowns led by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland
Security, but it also expressed opposition to parts of the Stop Online
Piracy Act, which helped scuttle the legislation earlier this year. Yet
Romney opposed SOPA, too. A factor in whether any new legislation is
introduced in the next Congress — and that is a big if — may be
what role the White House takes in helping to frame the issue and
perhaps mediate between sides to better line up support on Capitol Hill.

Media consolidation:
Republicans traditionally have taken more of a hands-off approach when
it comes to mergers in general, and there are many reasons to believe
that would be true in a Romney administration. But even Genachowski has
shown a willingness to examine media-ownership rules, which include a
prohibition on owning newspapers and broadcast stations in the same
market. A Republican-dominated FCC could be driven to speed up the
process of abandoning such constraints.


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