By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Today, the biggest quid for the pro quo of campaign contributions is Hollywood's desire for the U.S. government to push for implementation of the GATT agreement, and kick down the last barricades to total U.S. domination of global film production and distribution.
Thus far Hollywood's hopes have not been entirely realized, since the European Economic Community, led by the French, Italians, and Spanish, has maintained some quotas that, according to the ever-vigilant Valenti, "represent an epidemic of European cinema industry anti-Americanism.... All this fervor has one objective--to exile the American film/TV industry from Europe and shrink the reach of American audio-visual material which is hugely popular with citizens of the EC countries."
The sort of restriction outraging Valenti is the EC stipulation, pressed by the French, that 60 percent of airtime on all TV stations in the Community show products originating in European studios. Valenti rages that "this amounts to a serious threat to the future of American movies and TV programs".
Another obsession of the Hollywood studios is the subsidy system for moviemaking in EC countries, which amounts to some $700 million a year for the entire Community, or roughly the equivalent of seven Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. This comparatively paltry sum has not prevented Hollywood from making subsidies a major issue in trade negotiations, thus far unsuccessfully.
But in the last two years these trade matters have been outshone by the biggest prize in half a century: telecommunications "reform," which found its final, unlovely expression in the Telecommunications Act signed by Clinton in February of this year. The stakes were huge: the rules governing phone and cable company mergers, deregulation of cable rates, the ending of restrictions on how many radio stations a company might own in one market, the sale of public frequencies, and the V-chip. Hollywood money flowed lavishly on both sides of the political aisle and when the dust settled, the entertainment industry had achieved a splendid victory.
In the Clinton era there have been some particularly interesting co-productions between the White House and Hollywood, perhaps none more redolent of hypocrisy than the three hours per week of prime-time children's programming agreed upon by the major networks last July, glowingly touted by Tipper Gore in the party convention in Chicago, even though what is commonly regarded as the sine qua non of any decent children's TV programming--the absence of commercials--had been effortlessly discarded in yet another "win-win" solution.
From the White House's point of view the biggest political plus, beyond dollars for the campaign chest, has been the cachet of Hollywood support for the administration's supposed triumphs in the environmental sector.
In the old days, candidates craved a manly whack on the shoulder from John Wayne or Charlton Heston, or the more sensitive salutation of Gregory Peck or Paul Newman. These hopes still prevail to a certain extent, but nowhere is New Hollywood more potent than in giving a thumb's up for a party's or a candidate's efforts on behalf of the threatened habitat, recycling, endangered species, and the Amazon rain forest. This year the Clinton team has belatedly realized that the enviro vote--particularly from Republican women--is vital, and the Democrats have a huge green edge in the public mind. Thus, endorsements from such supposed enviro stars as Streisand, Robert Redford, Ted Danson, and Bonnie Raitt are regarded as political gold.
Of course, talk of substantive difference between Democrats and Republicans is mostly nonsense. As the Wall Street Journal took pains to point out in a news article on September 9, "both parties are likely to continue a trend begun in the late 1980s, toward more flexible environmental regulation that is less intrusive for businesses than individual."
But the charade of Clintonian green-ness has not only been very useful to the White House, but it also has helped such major Hollywood enterprises as Dreamworks, whose reputation, like that of the now tarnished Disney operation (following the failed effort to build an entertainment center on Manassas Battlefield in Virginia), depends on public identification of the corporate endeavor with respect for nature, enhancement of the warmer virtues. CP