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SkyFILES: Everything and Nothing

by Michael Hopkins, MediaBiz.com

Democrats now control both the House and Senate. And that has the potential to change everything - and nothing - on Capitol Hill.

It means there's the probability that not much will get done in Congress as far as significant legislation targeting the telecom and multiplatform industries. Instead, as Blair Levin of Stifel Nicolaus sees it, there could be a mundane focus on telecom and media hearings and oversight and less emphasis on enacting major new laws.

Not that lawmakers are getting anything accomplished these days. They're sitting on key telecom reform legislation that appears to be doomed in a lame duck Congress. And, more importantly for some satellite TV interests, a bill addressing distant network signals may soon find itself on the back burner.

"The Democratic take over of the U.S. House of Representatives and … the Senate obviously has major political ramifications, but we don't expect it to lead to a basic shift in communications policy," said Levin. "What it probably will do, in our view, is ensure that any telecom and media legislation that passes is bipartisan in nature and modest in scope, while also moderating the existing regulatory trends at the Federal Communications Commission and, to a lesser extent, antitrust policy at the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission."

As for distant nets, Levin said EchoStar's hope for "legislative relief from a Dec. 1 distant-signal injunction also just took a blow." A relaxation of media ownership rules at the Portals could be tough, and there's talk that the February 2009 digital TV transition may slip, said the Stifel Nicolaus analyst.

What observers can expect is new leadership for the various committees handling communications issues.

The chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees communications issues and telecom reform, will likely pass to Rep. John Dingell of Michigan. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) would likely take the reigns of the Internet and Technology Subcommittee.

www.SkyReport.com - used with permission
 
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