Senate Fate Could Hinge On Ex-Broadcaster Burns


At press time, longtime broadcaster-friendly Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a former broadcaster himself, was behind in the count, but not down for the count.

Some reported problems with the vote count in Montana meant the race remained a toss-up at press time with Burns' Democratic opponent, John Tester, ahead by only a couple thousand votes.

The control of the Senate hangs on the outcome of that race, and the one involving George Allen in Virginia, also too close to call at a about a 7,000-vote margin with some absentee ballots and a few stray precincts yet to be tallied.

Currently the split  in the Senate is 49/49. If the Republicans win either of those outstanding races they will retain the Senate, with Vice President Dick Cheney representing the 51st Republican as president of the Senate.

Both races will likely require recounts, however, with Washington types likely having to wait weeks to find out who will control the Senate calendar and committees when the new Congress convenes in January.

The House is now solidly in Democratic hands, though, which means a bit of deja vu for broadcasters with John Dingell (D-Mich.) likely returning as chairman of the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) taking over atop the Telecommunications Subcommittee.

That means that any new attempt to update the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to ease video franchising rules would likely have stronger build-out provisions for telcos, for which both Dingell and Markey pushed, and stronger Internet anti-discrimination language ("net neutrality). The current bill to update franchising is stuck in the Senate, with nothing likely to happen in the lame duck session.