The key question fired to Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) during a session at the NAB State Leadership Conference was this: "Can we count on your support for everything that we’re asking for?" "Oh, absolutely," was his rapid-fire and extremely well-received response. However, he quickly qualified it, saying that he thinks he is "pretty well" with broadcasters on most issues but that none of his various constituents should count on him being on the same side 100% of the time.
Pryor noted that between primaries, conventions and re-election campaigning, a shorter legislative session is to be expected, but it is no reason to think there won’t be progress made in second session of the 110th Congress. And he thinks the 111th will seat significantly more Democrats than this one after November 5, although he does not think it likely the Democrats will be able to put together a filibuster-proof 60-40 majority in the Senate.
His take on the big issue for the year is no surprise: DTV. He expects the Senate’s canceled hearing will be back on the calendar shortly.
Asked about the FCC’s localism proceeding, he said he wasn’t as well-versed on the ins and outs of it as were attendees, but added "There’s a real frustration with Kevin Martin’s leadership," which he said extends to both sides of the aisle. He cited a tendency toward secrecy, an apparent personal agenda, and a tendency to act contrary to the evidence.
RBR/TVBR observation: Martin has tried to do things to increase transparency, like releasing the ownership rulemaking proposal several weeks prior to acting on it. According to the FCC operational system he inherited, this occurred well after the comment period had expired. He allowed further comment, but was pilloried for not allowing enough time. But on the other hand, they were still making changes to it late into the night before it was voted on, according to Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein.
In conclusion, we’ll share this line from Pryor, which isn’t so much about broadcasting but may still be of interest. The District of Columbia lacks voting membership in Congress, and most residents sport license plates with the phrase "Taxation without representation." Pryor said he saw a bumper sticker riffing on that while on his way to the event. The sticker said, "Taxation WITH representation isn’t so hot either."