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Why Henry Waxman's New Post Is Good For Hollywood

Thursday, 20 Nov 2008 | 3:38 PM ET

With a new administration getting ready to take over in Washington, the folks out in La La Land are wondering if there will be any affect on 'the biz.'

News that Representative Henry Waxman will become chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee in January, replacing John Dingell, who chaired the committee for the last 28 years, should be good for the entertainment industry.

The people who drive Hollywood are literally Waxman's constituency; his district includes Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. With many of Hollywood's biggest studios in his district, and even more of the people who work there, it's only natural that Waxman would be looking out for their interests.

But Waxman has made some enemies in the broadcast TV space: pushing for free airtime for candidates, and grilling network news heads after incorrect calls in the 2000 race. He was influential in cracking down on media depictions of smoking, an issue the MPAA instituted a much stricter policy on last year. In 2001 Waxman even pushed to get NBC to turn over a video tape that allegedly showed our parent company, GE's then chairman Jack Welch, pushing news executives.

Waxman will have sway when it comes to issues of intellectual property, broadcast indecency, and even the issue of how cable and telecom companies regulate data transmitted over broadband lines (aka. net neutrality). The Energy & Commerce Committee oversees the Federal Communications Commision and all telecom issues. Waxman should work closely with a number of Hollywood allies: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Howard Berman, and Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs the subcommittee on telecom in the internet.

Waxman pushed for this new role with an emphasis on energy, claiming that the committee hadn't made enough progress on global warming and the environment. In this economy, it seems we're unlikely to see too many media conflicts anytime soon.

    • More: Waxman To Chair House Energy and Commerce

In the meantime Waxman will focus on his energy issues. But when those issues do arise, as they're sure to, it'll be interesting to see if Waxman continues his hard line on broadcast policy, or whether he's more sensitive to the challenged industry.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.