Key issues will see continuity in D.C. but smaller races raise ripple effects
As Hollywood looks to read the tea leaves in the wake of Tuesday’s election, it’s clear that the win for President Barack Obama won’t result in a sea change in Washington’s dealings with show business — federal funding for public television and the arts will survive, key senators were re-elected and the social status quo has been preserved — but there are ripple effects for Hollywood in a handful of areas.
Notably, the FCC is likely to see changes in its composition, if tradition on what happens in a second presidential term is any guide. Even before Obama’s re-election, names were being floated regarding who might succeed FCC chairman Julius Genachowski if he decides to exit the post — something that is seen as likely at some point next year. Likely candidates include Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, the two Democratic appointees on the commission.
What isn’t likely to change: an FCC agenda that is big on laying the groundwork for the expansion of broadband.
Lobbyists working on behalf of various sectors of the entertainment biz likewise see a continuity of efforts in D.C. now that Obama has landed a second term.Cary Sherman, chairman of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, said that Tuesday’s election results will have “really very little, if any” impact on the industry. Obama, he said, has been “solid on several of our issues, including trade and intellectual property protection.”
Sherman also underscored that the new makeup of Congress won’t substantially factor into lobbying efforts.
“Our job is to build coalitions and to work with both sides to achieve results that will benefit the music community,” Sherman said. “Music is not a partisan thing. Both parties respect and appreciate the contributions of the music community to our culture and everyday lives, and that’s not going to change whether a Democrat or Republican sits in the Oval Office.”
The election results, both nationally and in California, may have deeper effects on particular Hollywood constituencies. Consider these areas:
Howard Berman loses to Brad Sherman: One of the nation’s nastiest, and costliest, House races pitted two Democrats against each other because of redistricting. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) lost handily to Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) for a San Fernando Valley seat.
The entertainment industry had invested heavily in Berman’s re-election, as his district not only encompassed many studios but he had, over the years, become a point man on all things intellectual property, enough to be dubbed “Hollywood’s congressman.” Just who steps in to serve that role on Capitol Hill now?
Showbiz, from studio chiefs to unions, invested heavily in trying to get Berman re-elected, so it can’t be assumed that Sherman would just take that place. The election became personal, after all.
Another possibility is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whose district includes parts of Burbank. But geography alone is not so much a factor as grasp of the issues and connections to other key members.
It may take some time to see who emerges.
“We certainly want someone to fill that role,” said Richard Bates, senior VP of government relations for the Walt Disney Co. “I’m not sure anyone can step in to Howard’s shoes.”
Cary Sherman said, “He’s left a lasting legacy that will benefit creators and California for many years. We expect that there will be others who will step up and be strong on creators’ rights.”
Music makes its mark: A surreal moment on election night took place at Stage 3 of Culver Studios, where the Obama campaign had set up a phone bank for hundreds of volunteers to call the swing states.
After their work was done, the election was called and supporters celebrated, and Stevie Wonder began an impromptu performance — that is until TV screens showed Obama taking the stage in Chicago to the tune of Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed and Delivered.”
Wonder sang a version afterward, but his support signifies the extent to which musicians stepped out for political figures this election. On the campaign’s final day, Bruce Springsteen trekked through swing states with Obama, and Kid Rock sang “Born Free” as the Romneys took the stage.
Perhaps never before have recording artists taken such a visible role in a presidential campaign. A campaign’s theme song is more than an afterthought.
“It really speaks to the power of musicians as credible messengers and the influence of culture on people’s lives,” Sherman said. “Candidates understand and value that. And that’s a great thing for our community.”
But music also loses one of its champions: The surprise loss of Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) to Raul Ruiz for a Palm Springs-area congressional seat, means that the sector will be without one of its notable supporters.
Mack was a chief champion of a copyright extension act in 1998 that was named for her late husband, and, as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has been outspoken in bolstering copyright causes with the growth of file-sharing and online music services.
She also was a strong backer of the Performance Rights Act, a bill to provide artists and labels with compensation when their songs were played by radio broadcasters.
Big Bird lives: President Obama’s re-election means that federal funding of public broadcasting is spared. His administration has retained funding even in the midst of a budget-cutting Congress, but advocates saw the possibility of Mitt Romney’s election as a genuine threat.
Romney singled out PBS for cuts at the first debate, inspiring an entire meme that Big Bird was about to be placed on the endangered species list.
The whole debate put public broadcasting in the crosshairs of a partisan election, a place that many leaders would prefer not to be. In fact, Patrick Butler, president of the Assn. of Public Television Stations, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said he hoped that the election “will mark a turning point for public television and a restoration of the bipartisan support for our work.”
LGBT pride prospers: Outside of Obama’s victory, the headline out of Tuesday’s results was gains for the LGBT movement. Four states had marriage on the ballot, and all four sided with same-sex nuptials.
The shift in public sentiment, on the single best electoral night for the LGBT community, is all the more amazing given that just California passed Proposition 8 four years ago and a slew of gay-marriage bans passed on state ballots in 2004.
Hollywood has had a hand in the reversal of fortune, in terms of mustering money, time and content.
Vice President Joseph Biden earlier this year cited TV’s “Will & Grace” as a reason for the opinion shift, but the most surprising thing may be how little same-sex marriage was a wedge issue in this campaign. Just about the closest that Romney came to bringing up the issue was when he cited “Modern Family” as his favorite TV show.
“When the history books are written, 2012 will be remembered as the year when LGBT Americans won decisively at the ballot box,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin.