I have no amazing analysis as to why Bush won, or why the Republicans managed to firm up their domination in both houses of Congress. It sucks, but we’ll live. We may even be able to galvanize more opposition. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that four years of the corrupt Bush administration has been good for oppositional and independent media.
That said, when it comes to issues like low-power FM and media ownership reform it’s the Congress that has much more effect than the Executive, and we can expect any and all progress in Congress to grind to a halt. John McCain, one of the strongest advocates of both these issues and a Republican, is leaving the chairship of the Senate Commerce Committee to be replaced by the much more reliably conservative and industry-friendly Ted Stevens of Alaska. That, combined with even less support in the Senate as a whole will probably put up a big blockade against further motion on media reform issues.
With Denny Hastert at the helm the House has never been cooperative in moving on media reform issues, and I don’t expect that to change.
So, I think it’s safe to say that the expansion of low-power FM is all but a dead issue now, and for the forseeable future. But, there is still unlicensed broadcasting, which I think is only growing, not shrinking.
And while the FCC has stepped up enforcement against prominent stations like Freak Radio Santa Cruz, we have to remember that FCC funding is always under threat. As John at DIYmedia notes, it appears that the FCC office in Denver has run out of travel funds for the year, at least partially due to chasing Boulder Free Radio, and so is very limited to how much it can chase pirates that aren’t in the city proper.
Republicans have always had a mixed relationship with the FCC — they like using regulation to keep the field safe for the NAB, but they love deregulation. They have a history of attacking the FCC’s budget, especially when it looks like the agency is making life tough for the communications industry.
The combination of no more LPFM licenses and a shrinking FCC budget should mean good things for unlicensed radio. No doubt the FCC will continue to go after the most prominent and public broadcasters, but will probably have to conserve resources to do so. That should leave things clearer for more clandestine broadcasters.
I’m not cheering, but, then again, a Kerry administration wouldn’t give me much reason to cheer, either.