×

What a Democratic Midterm Victory Would Mean for Hollywood

If Democrats take one or both houses of Congress, many entertainment industry figures will be joyous over the new check on President Trump and the prospects for taking back the White House in 2020.

For the business side of entertainment, Democratic control may be a mixed blessing. What can be expected are gridlock, investigations and more oversight — including over federal departments and agencies.

Major Silicon Valley players would still be subject to great scrutiny. Lawmakers in both parties have been hammering Facebook, Twitter and other internet giants over issues including hacking, privacy and fake news.

That’s music to the ears of studio lobbyists, who for years have been pressing Congress to require Google and other platforms to bear more responsibility for fighting piracy.

MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin already has been pushing lawmakers on the idea of “platform accountability,” while the content group CreativeFuture recently sent out a letter and petition to all midterm candidates, with the implicit message that the next Congress needs to put more pressure on Google.

Hollywood is positioned to have content-friendly lawmakers in charge of key committees if Democrats gain control of the House.

But Democrats want to go even further when it comes to regulating tech — in ways that aren’t necessarily in the interests of major media companies.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, likely to run for speaker if the Democrats win, has suggested a new agency to deal with tech and its impact and proposed an Internet Bill of Rights to protect consumers, with provisions on privacy, data collection and net neutrality.

One provision would require opt-in consent to the collection of personal data and to the sharing of personal data with a third party — at a time when studios and networks are waking up to the need to have that information from their consumers on ad platforms and when making programming decisions.

The grumbling over tech giants has spilled over into antitrust policy.

“It’s the witching hour for antitrust,” says Larry Downes, senior industry and innovation fellow at Georgetown University. “It’s possible that a new Congress with Democratic majorities in either or both houses may find it easier to build a coalition with the White House to put tech companies under more pressure.”
Democrats, though, are just as likely to be skeptical of media consolidation.

Last year, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., unveiled a party platform that included much stricter antitrust enforcement, including reviews of mergers after they have been completed, and retaining a “consumer competition advocate” to take complaints and recommend investigations. He singled out media companies, including the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

Any legislation would be a long shot to pass in a gridlocked government, but if Democrats are in charge, they would be able to call hearings of proposed mergers. That’s something Republicans declined to do with the Walt Disney Co.-21st Century Fox deal as well as Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media. (The former was approved by the Justice Dept.; the latter was sidelined at the FCC).

The power to greenlight mergers would still be in the hands not of Congress but of the Justice Dept., the FTC and the FCC. But hearings still put companies on the spot and force them to answer critics.

“That’s the most realistic and powerful thing Congress can do — hold hearings and shed light on them,” says Gigi Sohn, a former FCC official and longtime public interest advocate.

A Democratic-led Congress also could require FCC chairman Ajit Pai and other commissioners to answer for their actions.

Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said that Republicans “have been flying air cover” for the Republican controlled FCC and that it will be a “different experience” if they have to answer to Democrats in Congress.

The speculation is that Pai, having completed a big chunk of his deregulatory agenda, may take the midterms as a cue to leave. Asked about that at a recent FCC meeting, his reply, tellingly, was noncommittal.

“I can’t speculate about hypothetical, future election results that haven’t come in yet,” he said, chuckling a bit. “I’m staying the course.”

More Politics

  • Pod Save America Hosts on Trump

    'Pod Save America' Hosts on Trump, the Democratic Primary and What's Wrong With Cable News

    Like many Democrats, Tanya Somanader was blindsided by the 2016 presidential election. A veteran of the Obama White House and a former speechwriter and digital specialist for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Somanader was gearing up for a Hillary Clinton administration. Instead, she had to grapple with the reality of a Donald Trump presidency. “A lot [...]

  • Sean Spicer Dancing With the Stars

    Sean Spicer Hopes 'Dancing With the Stars' Gig Will 'Move the Country Forward'

    In the face of a swift backlash, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he hoped his role as a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” can help “move the country forward in a positive way.” Spicer told CNN on Thursday that his “DWTS” posting was about entertainment, not politics. ABC revealed Spicer [...]

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

  • Cardi BSwisher Sweets Spark Award, Arrivals,

    Cardi B Talks Police Brutality, Student Debt With Bernie Sanders in Nail Salon

    Rapper Cardi B hosted Senator Bernie Sanders for a video interview at The TEN nail bar in Detroit, an appropriate venue for a musician known to sport some serious claws. Cardi and the 2020 presidential candidate discussed everything from reinstating and expanding the DACA program to fixing student debt by placing a “modest” speculation tax [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    Jeffrey Epstein Autopsy Reportedly Finds Broken Bones in Neck

    Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy results suggest that the the disgraced multimillionaire sustained multiple breaks in his neck bones, according to The Washington Post. The report says one of the bones broken was the hyoid bone, which is near the Adam’s apple in men. Although hyoid breaks have been known to occur during a hanging, experts told [...]

  • Asap Rocky1 Oak : Gotha Takeover

    A$AP Rocky: A Swedish Take on the Case That Riveted the Country

    With everyone from President Donald Trump to the Rev. Al Sharpton weighing in on rapper A$AP Rocky’s detention in Stockholm after his involvement in a street brawl there, this peculiar saga seemed tailor-made for summer’s silly season. But in Sweden it has also sparked debate about some serious issues – such as the nature of [...]

  • United States Attorney for the Southern

    Jeffrey Epstein Autopsy Results 'Pending Further Information' Following Examination

    Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy results are “pending further information,” according to a statement from the New York City Medical Examiner’s office. “Today, a medical examiner performed the autopsy of Jeffrey Epstein. The ME’s determination is pending further information at this time,” chief medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said in the statement. Sampson also confirmed the presence [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content