It’s been a slow year for broadcasters in general on Capitol Hill, with the notable exception of the DTV transition. Sure, there have been a few issues getting some play – performance royalties and roadblocking any attempts to revive the Fairness Doctrine among the most prominent. But other issues that were white hot just a few years ago, like indecency and ownership consolidation, have been quiet all year with the exception of a flurry of activity after Kevin Martin and his fellow Republicans pushed through a 20-market green light for newspaper/broadcast crossownership. Efforts led by Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to pass a Resolution of Disapproval have stalled while challenges from both sides – those who think Martin went too far and those who think he didn’t go far enough –are pending in appeals court. There are also an indecency matter pending in the judiciary, although it has made it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Associated Press expects that most of the action between now and the seating of the 111th Congress in January 2009 will be more of the spotlighting rather than the legislating variety and that the lion’s share of communications attention will go to network neutrality and other telco issues. One exception may be – you probably guessed it – the DTV transition. AP speculates that Congress may try to come up with additional cash to use education consumers about the transition.
RBR/TVBR observation: The lack of Hill attention to broadcast matters was telegraphed at the beginning of the year at the NAB’s annual Washington regulatory meeting. Key congressional aides, from both parties on both key commerce committees, said that with an election year and with a major deadline looming, it was pretty much going to be DTV, more DTV and than, just for spice, even more DTV as the year progressed. And that is pretty much how the rest of the year will go.