The Big Advertising, Media and Tech Issues Facing Congress

When Congress returns this week, it will be crunch time for lawmakers who will have only three weeks to fund the government before it shuts down Oct. 1. As if that weren’t enough, there’s now the vote on military action in Syria. Moreover, the debt ceiling looms again, which must be raised sometime in the fall so the government can pay its mounting debts. While fiscal feuds are bound to dominate lawmakers at first, there are other issues impacting advertising, media and tech businesses that Washington might address. .

1

Ad tax deduction on alert

House Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) are soliciting ideas for ways to reform the tax code. That potentially puts the ad tax deduction at risk. One lawmaker already singled out the food marketing category by using elimination of the tax deduction as a way to curb “unhealthy” food ads targeting children.

2

Retransmission consent reform

It’s more bark than bite. Despite the CBS blackout on Time Warner Cable, there’s little appetite in Congress to do anything about retrans. Advocates for change (Time Warner and Dish) are trying to convince lawmakers to tack reform onto the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act, which Congress must move on before the end of 2014. More noise is expected in September at the House communications and technology subcommittee hearing on the expiring act. The FCC admittedly lacks authority even though acting chair Mignon Clyburn said she was “ready to consider appropriate action.”

3

FCC reform advances

The House will vote on the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act, a nobrainer bill that allows the Federal Communications Commission to combine eight reports into one and eliminates the antediluvian telegraph report. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is taking the lead in the Senate. Though the reporting act is bipartisan, the companion bill, the FCC Process Reform Act, is still stuck in partisan negotiations.

4

Net neutrality rules

A legacy of the Julius Genachowski-led FCC proposal heads to court. On Sept. 9, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Verizon Wireless v. FCC, a case that has profound implications for future Internet policy–whether the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet by imposing rules that prohibit online service providers from blocking or slowing down legal content from competitors.

5

Patent reform omnibus bill

Assuming that judiciary chairs Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) keep their promises, a bill aimed at curbing abuses from patent trolls should surface in early fall. With strong bipartisan support, this one has a good chance of seeing some action in Congress, maybe even passage. Net neutrality rules A legacy of the Julius Genachowski-led FCC proposal heads to court. On Sept. 9, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Verizon Wireless v. FCC, a case that has profound implications for future Internet policy–whether the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet by imposing rules that prohibit online service providers from blocking or slowing down legal content from competitors. FCC, FTC nominations

6

FCC, FTC nominations

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) will hold a hearing on FCC Republican nominee Mike O’Rielly so that he can be paired for a Senate fl oor vote with Tom Wheeler, the Democratic FCC chair nominee, who has already been cleared by committee vote. Terrell McSweeny, the Democratic nominee for FTC, is also slated for a hearing, probably at the same time as the O’Rielly hearing. Barring any holds on the nominations from the GOP, both agencies could be at full strength by fall.

7

Privacy debate rages on

Since the NSA Prism scandal, Washington has been fi xated more on Fourth Amendment issues than data collection for advertising or data broker practices. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) reintroduced his Do Not Track bill, but no action is expected in the fall. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), chairman of the commerce, manufacturing and trade subcommittee, is just getting started, forming a working group to examine privacy issues. The FTC’s report on data brokers is due later this year. But there’s scant hope the W3C tracking group can agree on a universal Do Not Track browser.