The entertainment industry has never been a friend to conservative thinkers.
In 2016, it gave Hillary Clinton more than $8 million — compared to just $260,000 to then-candidate Donald Trump.
During the 2014 election cycle, 74 percent of the donations from entertainers went to Democrats, while 81 percent slipped into the Left’s pockets in 2008.
The reason for this sharp disparity is as clear as day. Music, TV, and big-screen executives can’t support conservatives when the Republican Party, which represents free-market competition and law and order, has been the biggest thorn in its side for years.
Large segments of their business model have depended on the imposition of protectionism and other forms of red tape to undercut smaller competitors and, in some cases, attain monopoly status. While couching their legislative and regulatory needs in fuzzy, feel-good talking points sometimes works on Democrats, it never plays well with the more ideological Right — hence why their money trail leads the other way.
However, despite the rigged playing field the Hollywood and New York bubble has created against the Republican Party, since June 5 President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice has appeared at least open to the notion of altering the antitrust guardrails in place for two of the president’s biggest entertainment industry enemies. The recipients of this extraordinary financial favor would be none other than ASCAP and BMI, two powerful monopolies in the music industry that control nearly 100 percent of music’s performing rights licenses.
While known more recently for their shameless political posturing by sending cease-and-desist letters to President Trump, the two institutions’ sins extend far beyond that. For years, the DOJ has expressed concerns about ASCAP’s and BMI’s tendencies to use their monopoly power to price-gouge and discriminate based on the size, capabilities, and beliefs of companies that wish to purchase licenses.
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That’s why, in 1941, the DOJ put them under consent decrees; these antitrust remedies allow those organizations to continue operating without government intervention as long as they follow a reasonable set of behavioral orders. These decrees have been, and continue to be, important for preserving the free market in the music industry. As Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, noted in a Townhall piece, “This light-touch regulatory approach, while not perfect, has for decades respected the private property rights of music creators while ensuring that businesses are left with unreasonably high bills from the middlemen involved.”
Nearly 80 years has passed, and nothing has changed about ASCAP and BMI. They still hold the keys to the near-entirety of the public performance copyright marketplace; they still are accused of significant and egregious anti-competitive behavior; and, more recently, they’ve thrown shade at the sitting president for using their members’ music despite the fact that the law is clearly on his side.
Nevertheless, thanks to an advocacy push by these two organizations, the DOJ is now apparently pondering the prospect of relaxing its antitrust guardrails despite even the Hollywood-loving Obama administration in 2016 determining after a two-year review that making any modifications to them would be stupid policy.
Bureaucrats make inefficient use of their time — or they’ve been influenced by the swamp in the worst of ways.
Reopening a review process that closed less than half a decade ago might be a new record for the DOJ, and it proves one of either two things.
Just like the rest of Washington, the bureaucrats within the department make an inefficient use of their time — or they’ve been influenced by the swamp in the worst of ways.
In either case, it’s bad news and needs to end.
In all fairness to Attorney General William Barr, this apparent new effort on behalf of ASCAP and BMI is not his doing; but he needs to ensure his subordinates come to the right conclusion.
Without the major teeth found within the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, there’s no telling what will come next.
Ivey Ramos is a Michigan-based freelance writer and multi-media broadcast professional. She is a graduate of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, with a degree in international relations. She is executive producer of “The Steve Gruber Show,” one of the biggest radio programs in Michigan.
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