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12 to Watch: Barack Obama

Barack Obama has moved to Washington this year. He has a new job with the government, in case you haven’t heard.

12 to Watch

But whether there’s cause for broadcasters to celebrate could depend on how quickly the photogenic new president deals on the media ownership concerns he’s repeatedly expressed. It also could depend on how quickly his economic stimulus plan, which was approved by the House last week and is expected to pass in the Senate this week, revives their ad revenues and station values.

Aside from the Obama administration bringing in a Justice Department with a more skeptical eye toward media deals, media ownership issues have been a long-term focus of Mr. Obama’s and they are likely to be an increasing focus at the Federal Communications Commission.

“Mass media is contributing to an overall coarsening of our culture,” Mr. Obama told the Kaiser Family Foundation in a November 2005 speech he occasionally referred to during the presidential campaign. “The content of [children’s] viewing is not enriching their minds, but numbing them; not broadening intellectual curiosity or appreciation for the arts, but trivializing the important and desensitizing us to the tragic.”

In September 2007, Mr. Obama urged the FCC to cut the length of TV station license terms, among other changes.

“Instead of greater consolidation, I fully endorse the call for new rules promoting greater coverage of local issues and greater responsiveness of broadcasters to the communities they operate in,” he said in a statement urging the FCC “to establish greater clarity in the public-interest obligations of broadcasters.”

While broadcasters may anticipate intensified scrutiny, how that will play out is less clear. Could a new FCC require more local programming, impose new limits on sponsorship and enforce net neutrality rules that make it easier for new Web competitors? Will an Obama Food and Drug Administration clamp down or eliminate direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising? Could efforts to roll out higher-speed broadband and wi-fi help Web-based video at the expense of TV stations?

And then, of course, there’s that other question about the Obama administration: How long will it take for the media to tire of Obama as a media celebrity?

AT A GLANCE

Name: Barack Obama

Title: President of the United States

How long in current position: Since Jan. 20

Place of birth: Honolulu

Year of birth: 1961

What to watch for: The arrival of change to Washington in the shape of the former Illinois senator who became the country’s first African American president could bring increased scrutiny to the concentration of media ownership.

Who knew? He has known former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin since Harvard Law School, where they occasionally played basketball together.

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