Predicting What the Election Means for Tech and Media

CNet’s Declan McCullagh gives a rundown of what the election results might mean for Tech in the US. Obviously, the biggest difference will be Republican leadership of all committees, which is a mixed bag, since some tech issues don’t break cleanly along party lines. For instance, Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings of S.C. has been a strong cheerleader for copy protection technology. According to McCullagh, he’s likely to be replaced as chair of the Commerce Committee by Sen. John McCain, who is much more hostile to it. However, persecuting P2P file-sharing networks and their users finds support on both sides of the aisle. Thus the impact on file-sharing freedom is little hard to judge at the moment.

In terms of other on-line freedom, the Patriot Act was cooked up by the Republican administration, but still garnered vast bi-partisan support. I’d venture to say that the Republicans, in general, are a little more hostile to civil liberties, while the Democrats as a group have themselves done little to distinguish themselves as defenders of civil liberties, especially on-line.

Party lines are much clearer when it comes to media issues. Despite being a copy-protection-monger, Sen. Hollings has also been a staunch opponent of media consolidation, and has used his Commerce Committee chairship to push that agenda. Sen. McCain, by comparison, has generally supported and been well supported by the broadcast lobby. But after his 2000 presidential bid, he became a little more unpredictable, like when he attempted to aid the cause of low-power FM. At least on the surface, McCain doesn’t seem to be quite so friendly to media mergers as he once was, though I’d be surprised if he took as hard a line as Hollings.

Otherwise, Republicans are typically much more hostile to media ownership limits and support so-called media deregulation. Having a Republican-controlled Congress likely means little resistance to FCC Chairman Powell’s plan to loosen or eliminate ownership restrictions.

One of the cloud’s few silver linings may be that the gridlock over presidential nominations in the Senate might be broken, finally allowing the appointment of Democrat Jonathan Adelstein to the FCC. Adelstein, who would be the 2nd Democrat on the FCC and is likely to be oppositional towards more consolidation, has had his appointment held up for months by Senate Republicans in retribution for the Democrats holding up Bush’s judicial nominees. Of course, Adelstein’s appointment is precepted on these judicial nominees going through — which is not a good thing. I guess it’s all about little (very little) victories.






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