So the WGA’s Patric Verrone visited Our Nation’s Capital today, joined by his SAG counterpart Alan Rosenberg, for meetings with members of California’s Democratic congressional delegation. News reports say Verrone and Rosenberg also had talks slated with lawmakers overseeing the TV industry as well as three FCC members. Though Verrone isn’t asking for hearings into writers strike-related issues, rumors keep reaching me about possible Senate or House hearings into the business practices of the Big Media conglomerates in whose few hands are most of the major Hollywood studios and networks. Certainly Verrone has expressed opposition to any further consolidation in the media industry, an issue that is heating up in Washington. But The Hill reported today that both Verrone and Rosenberg are complaining around Congress that Big Media is helping muzzle striking writers seeking news coverage of their side of the story.
Along with Barbara Boxer, Howard Berman and Henry Waxman, the pair sat down with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell and House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey as well as the chief of staff for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At the FCC, they huddled with the commission’s two Democrats, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, and Republican Robert McDowell. Since last year, the entertainment guilds have been unsuccessfully lobbying the FCC to institute a rule requiring independent producers to account for a quarter of all network broadcasting during prime time. In addition, the unions are lobbying the FCC to clamp down on studios’ growing use of “product integration,” where ads are woven subtly into movie and TV scripts. The guilds say the practice deprives talent of income from ads and fools viewers who don’t know they’re being pitched to.
But for years now the other side in the writers dispute, Big Media, actively courted Republicans when the GOP controlled Congress. After GE bought NBC in 1986, Jack Welch was a vocal conservative as well as Bob Wright and Jeffrey Immelt. Viacom’s Sumner Redstone has said that, while his personal loyalties lean Democrat, he votes Republican because it’s better for his business. Everyone knows where News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch stands. Time Warner’s outgoing chairman and CEO, Dick Parsons, has been a Republican insider from way back (albeit a Nelson Rockefeller-mentored moderate who managed Giuliani’s transition into the NYC Mayor’s Office.) And Disney’s longtime chairman and CEO Michael Eisner may personally lean Democrat but he brought on board former Murdoch chief lobbyist and Dubya fundraiser Preston Padden.
Let’s not forget that the current head of the MPAA Dan Glickman follows in Jack Valenti’s footsteps and is a Democrat. And, finally, while it’s true that the movie, music and TV industry gives overwhelmingly to Democrat causes and candidates, it’s primarily through individual donations and not PAC money. And let’s not forget that in October 2004, the Republican-controlled House and Senate and White House okayed a $137 billion corporate-tax bill — dubbed “No Lobbyist Left Behind” — that gave a huge $8 billion tax break to GE, which had bankrolled a record $17 million lobbying effort for it. Meanwhile, in that same bill, House Republicans at the last minute stripped the movie studios of about $1 billion worth of tax credits because of Hollywood’s near-constant support of the Democratic Party and its candidates.