If the federal government shuts down after midnight Monday, TV and radio stations will see the process for pending license approvals ground to a halt, national parks will stop issuing film permits and a smattering of upcoming congressional hearings will be postponed or cancelled. Plans by theater owners to lobby Capitol Hill on Tuesday were in doubt.
A shutdown appeared all the more likely on Monday afternoon as House lawmakers appeared strident in their demand that a resolution to keep the government funded include provisions to delay a major part of the Affordable Care Act.
In the entertainment sector, broadcasters may feel the most significant impact given the regulatory oversight by the FCC. The agency says that licensing services will cease, along with spectrum management, consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines and local competition enforcement. As at other agencies, only staff necessary for emergency services or the protection of life and property will remain working. The agency said that would be up to 38 employees out of 1,754. Another six, including chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and commissioner Ajit Pai, will remain working because their compensation doesn't come from the agency's annual appropriation.
Such a shutdown of the FCC would mean that all pending mergers and transactions that require FCC approval would be put on hold, said a spokesman for the National Assn. of Broadcasters. Among them are Sinclair Broadcast Group's plans to but seven Allbritton Communications stations, and the Tribune Co.'s plans to buy 17 stations from Local TV Holdings. Also stopped is any action on the agency's work on designing an "incentive auction" of broadcast spectrum, the details of which are a current contentious issue between stations and federal regulators.
A spokeswoman for the MPAA said that some of the issues that could affect production were the issuance of film permits by the National Park Service on park property. A shutdown also could delay visa processing -- of concern to studios drawing creative talent from overseas.
Also in doubt are scheduled hearings on the books. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee was scheduled to have a hearing on allocation of spectrum on Tuesday, with a Comcast executive among those testifying, while the Senate Commerce Committee had scheduled a vote on Thursday for the nomination of Michael P. O'Rielly to fill a vacancy on the FCC.
The Patent & Trademark Office will be open with operational funds from reserve fee collections, but those will dwindle after four weeks. The U.S. Copyright Office would only be offering support to Congress on policy and legislative matters that are needed, but an online registration portal will still be available so filers can secure the earliest possible effective date of registration on claims filed.
The National Assn. of Theater Owners, which has a general membership and board of directors meeting in Washington this week, had scheduled Tuesday for the day that theater owners lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill about a host of issues. It's unclear if the meetings will go on as scheduled. Among the topics of concern are the provision of the healthcare reform act that sets the threshold for full-time workers at 30 hours per week, not 40, meaning that theater companies face penalties if they do not offer these workers coverage. NATO says that it could limit their ability to hire young and elderly workers "seeking to supplement their income."
Of course, lobbying will continue, probably just away from Capitol Hill. "It will be different, but we'll still be open," said a rep for one lobbying org.
So, too, will litigation, as federal courts will remain open at least through Oct. 15. If a shutdown lasts until then, the situation will be reassessed.
In D.C. itself, the impact will be felt through the closure of highly trafficked government buildings and the Smithsonian. The Kennedy Center will be closed for tours, but its performances will continue, as they are funded largely by private donations. "Million Dollar Quartet" is scheduled for Tuesday night.
Government Shutdown Could Threaten Broadcasting, Film Permits
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