Under a studio-supported plan unveiled Thursday, films that have been colorized or materially altered will soon carry consumer notification labels when airing on broadcast TV and homevideo.
But guilds representing some of the main Hollywood talent complained that the plan does not go far enough.
Motion Picture Assn. of America prez Jack Valenti said four-second labels will be inserted on all applicable pix beginning in three to six weeks.
Companies that have agreed to the labeling system include all of MPAA’s members, plus Turner Broadcasting, New Line Cinema, Miramax and Goldwyn. That amounts to more than 90% of allU.S. films, per Valenti.
Three major groups will be affected:
- For films that have been “panned and scanned”– i.e., when part of a widescreen film area is cut off to fit into the squarer TV screen — the labels will read: “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV.”
- Pics that have been panned and scanned, edited and time compressed or expanded will read: “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV, and edited for content and to run in the time allotted.”
- An additional label will be added to colorized films: “This is a colorized version of the original black-and-white film.”
Valenti acknowledged the labeling plan was embraced to ward off threats of tougher legislation offered in Congress by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sens. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming).
Those bills — which have drawn the support of directors, screenwriters and cinematographers — would require labels that state the specific changes made in a film, and would list the objections of the pic’s creative authors.
In a joint statement issued by the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, the American Society of Cinematographers and the International Photographers Guild, the unions said they are “pleased” with the “first step” taken by MPAA. “Without our intervention, this step would not have been taken.”
The unions said they “remain convinced that consumers’ rights will be best served by a film labeling system that includes full disclosure to movie fans. We call upon the MPAA to promulgate labels that allow for full and truthful disclosure, and look forward to continuing our discussions to improve the label.”
Capitol Hill aides to Metzenbaum and Frank said the MPAA announcement is inadequate and that they will continue to press for legislation.
Simpson, meanwhile, dismissed the MPAA announcement as “a pile of pabulum” and told Daily Variety he will work “with ever more vigor” for passage of a strong bill.
Simpson claimed that as recently as two weeks ago, the unions and MPAA were “just a few words away” from hammering out acceptable lingo for all labels. Simpson said he’s “puzzled” why an agreement could not have been reached.
It’s questionable Simpson will succeed in getting labeling legislation passed , since Congress has shown minimal interest in the subject so far. Moreover, the two lawmakers who preside over panels that oversee film issues have pronounced themselves satisfied with the MPAA plan. House copyright subcommittee chairman William Hughes (D-N.J.) said that “what they’ve done meets my concerns. It does put the public on notice that films have been changed.”
An aide to Senate copyright subcommittee chairman Dennis DeConcini (D- Ariz.) said DeConcini’s reaction was “Bravo, he’s glad they went out and labeled. He thinks (MPAA) is demonstrating good faith.”
Valenti said discussions with the unions over labels were “negotiated in good faith. … We just couldn’t agree on the label.” Labels proposed by the unions were “too long, disparaging, and unacceptable,” he claimed.
Also endorsing the MPAA plan were the National Assn. of Broadcasters, the Assn. of Independent Television Stations, and the Committee for America’s Copyright Industries.