Pic, TV biz globalizing fast in U.S.

The U.S. motion picture and TV industries have globalized twice as fast as the overall U.S. economy, according to a study expected to be released today by the Commerce Department.

As of 1990, foreign-based firms employed more than 10% of the U.S. entertainment industry’s work force, up 553% since 1977, and twice the national average, according to the study by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.

NTIA’s report “Globalization of the Mass Media,” however, is seen by some Washington insiders as a last-gasp effort by the Bush administration to influence telecommunications policy.

NTIA is principally responsible for developing domestic and international communications and information policy, and could undergo a significant personnel reshuffling and policy redirection with the incoming Clinton administration.

“The report is a strong factual record of market conditions in the media, and it’s hard to say what the impact will be, though it’s clear from its findings that the U.S. can’t be complacent about the success of U.S. media firms in the international markets,” said Jim Wasilewski, acting director of public affairs for NTIA. The report was two years in the making, he said.

The 360-page report, whose initial release is limited to 100 copies for key members in Congress and other government toppers, focuses on the electronic mass media– movies, TV programming, broadcasting and sound recording. Among its recommendations:

o The FCC should change cross-ownership and multiple ownership rules to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of U.S. mass media firms.

o The FCC should begin a rulemaking process to liberalize restrictions on foreign ownership of U.S. broadcast licenses.

o Cable TV’s compulsory license rule should be abandoned.

o The U.S. government and industry should pay close attention to international copyright issues.

Federal regs have been relaxed during the Bush administration regarding network cable cross-ownership rules and radio station holding rules, among other policies. However, the incoming Clinton administration hasn’t given any clear signals about what legislative agenda it will pursue.

The report found that foreign ownership in media has for the most part been a net benefit to the U.S. economy, though it has sparked public controversy because it provides foreign investors with direct managerial control over some of this country’s most visibly “American” products.

Moreover, the report noted that foreign demand for U.S. programming appears to be growing substantially, but warns, “Over the long term, the increase in foreign production capabilities may eventually challenge the U.S. pre-eminent position in the global entertainment industry.”

Per the report, “In the near term, the threat of intellectual property rights violations and the imposition of program quotas by foreign governments are perhaps a greater concern to U.S. program producers than the emergence of production communities in other countries.”

Net exports of U.S.-made films and TV programming was $ 2.1 billion in 1991, “providing a substantial positive contribution to the overall U.S. balance of payments,” the report said. From 1987 to 1991, net exports for the film and TV industries rose nearly 200%.

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