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Elections Spell Changes In House TV Oversight

The new Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives may be less friendly to broadcasting interests than the outgoing Republicans. Chairing the key House Commerce Committee and its Communications Subcommittee will likely be Frank Pallone and Mike Doyle, respectively, who have been critical of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his deregulatory broadcast agenda.  

With Democrats securing a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, key committees controlling media law and policy — Energy and Commerce and its Communications and Technology Subcommittee — will get new leadership that may be less friendly to broadcasting interests than the outgoing Republicans.

Out at the parent Energy and Commerce when the new Congress convenes in January will be broadcaster-turned-politician Greg Walden of Oregon. In will be Frank Pallone of New Jersey.

Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, now the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, is expected to step up to its chairmanship. The current chairwoman, Marsha Blackburn, will not mind. She won a Senate seat in Tennessee.

It is the prerogative of the controlling party in the House and Senate to name the chairmen of the committees, which control legislation and provide oversight of federal agencies within the scope of their jurisdiction.

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Within the scope of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is the FCC.

Pallone and Doyle have been critical of Republican Ajit Pai and several of his deregulatory initiatives, including the easing of the broadcast ownership rules and the rolling back of kidvid requirements. They were particularly vocal in their opposition to the Sinclair-Tribune merger.

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However, the duo has been helpful in making sure many broadcasters have the time and money they need to move to new channels in the on-going repack of the TV band triggered by the FCC incentive auction.

The Republicans strengthened their control on the Senate, picking up at least two additional seats. But, still, there will be change atop the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and its Communications, Technology, Innovation and Internet Subcommittee. Terms limits will force John Thune of South Dakota, who wasn’t up for reelection, to give up the chairmanship of the parent committee.

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The word is that he will swap jobs with Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the current chair of the subcommittee. Wicker gets the committee chair, while Thune takes the subcommittee post.

Bill Nelson of Florida, the ranking Democrat on the parent committee, appears to have narrowly lost his reelection bid to the state’s governor Rick Scott, but he called for a recount this morning. Another committee Democrat, John Tester of Montana, will return, having survived a strong challenge by Republican Matt Rosendale.

Two Republican members had tough races. Ted Cruz of Texas won his, defeating Beto O’Rourke in a surprisingly close battle. But Dean Heller of Nevada didn’t have as much luck. He lost to Democrat Jacky Rosen.


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