×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Anger at White House from Studio Chiefs

The Obama administration is getting blowback from studio chiefs upset at the White House criticism of anti-piracy legislation, which has seemed to given credence and momentum to opponents’ campaign against the bills.

Rupert Murdoch has been tweeting away, and even suggesting that the anger at Obama is far more widespread that the administration may have calculated. Some studio executives have been grumbling about withholding support for Obama’s reelection bid, sources say, while the administration has made overtures toward trying to mend fences.

The White House statement criticized parts of the anti-piracy legislation, but what really irked studio chiefs was that it also cited concerns about censorship, which they saw as giving credibility to the concerns of opponents. “People are feeling really angry,” said one studio executive, who described a “feeling of taken a bit for granted” by the administration.

Opponents have pushed the the idea that the legislation is a threat to free speech, something that studio and recording industry lobbyists say is a blatant misrepresentation of the bills, designed to gin up a movement online. “Everyone is so outraged, particularly on the First Amendment issue,” the studio executive said. “[Free speech] is what we live and die by.”

There had been expectation among studio lobbyists last week that the administration would not weigh in at all on the legislation until it was closer to passage, so many studio officials were caught by surprise when three administration officials released a statement in a blog post on Saturday. The statement, however critical, nevertheless recognized the urgency of passing legislation this year, and of the two business communities working together on bills.

Whether studio unhappiness translates into a discernable dent in fundraising remains to be seen. But there has been a traditional disconnect between the motive for giving at the corporate level and the reasons for contributing in the broader creative community. “We are continuing to support the president,” said Andy Spahn, political consultant to DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and director Steven Spielberg. Katzenberg, a campaign bundler, was to attend a meeting with Vice President Joseph Biden and Silicon Valley business leaders this evening. DreamWorks is not a member of the MPAA.

Nicole Avant, who is hosting a fund-raiser for First Lady Michelle Obama at her home on Jan. 31, said that she has not heard of any studio chief withdrawing support. “We are pretty much sold out,” she said.

The entire flare up over the legislation has been characterized as a battle between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, and both sectors have been sources of fundraising strength, although the tech sector has been on the upswing.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama’s campaign raised just over $1 million from the entertainment industry as of the end of September, and $1.3 million from the Internet and computer industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But citing the CRP, Politico reported that Silicon Valley contributions were up 80 percent compared to the same period four years ago, while Hollywood giving was down 31 percent.

The figures do not take into account SuperPACs. Jeffrey Katzenberg gave $2 million to help launch a SuperPAC launched by former Obama aides, and other industry figures like J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath also gave to the independent expenditure committee.

More Voices

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    WGA, Agents Face Tough Issues on New Franchise Pact (Column)

    The Writers Guild of America and the major talent agencies are seven weeks away from a deadline that could force film and TV writers to choose between their agents and their union. This is a battle that has been brewing for a year but few in the industry saw coming until a few weeks ago. [...]

  • FX Confronts Streaming Thanks to Disney

    Kicking and Screaming, FX Is Forced to Confront Future in the Stream (Column)

    During his network’s presentation at the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour, FX chief John Landgraf made waves — and headlines — by mounting perhaps his most direct criticism yet of Netflix. Landgraf, whose briefings to the press tend to rely heavily on data about the volume of shows with which FX’s competitors flood the [...]

  • Longtime TV Editor Recalls Working for

    How a Bad Director Can Spoil the Show (Guest Column)

    I have been blessed with editing some of TV’s greatest shows, working with some of the industry’s greatest minds. “The Wonder Years,” “Arrested Development,” “The Office,” “Scrubs,” “Pushing Daisies” and, most recently, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I have earned an Emmy, ACE Eddie Awards, and many nominations. But whatever kudos I’ve received, over my [...]

  • Stock market Stock buyback

    Stock Buybacks Leave Firms Without Funds to Invest in Future (Column)

    Corporate giants on the S&P 500 have spent more than $720 billion during the past year on stock buybacks. Media and entertainment firms account for only a fraction of that spending, but even $1 million spent on share repurchases seems a foolhardy expenditure at this transformational moment for the industry. The record level of spending [...]

  • Hollywood Has Come Far With Diversity

    An Insider's Look at Hollywood's Diversity Efforts and How Far It Still Needs to Go

    I am a white man working in Hollywood. I grew up in Beverlywood, an all-white, predominantly Jewish, Los Angeles neighborhood sandwiched between 20th Century Fox Studios and MGM, where my elementary school had only one black student. I am compelled to write about diversity in Hollywood because “diversity” — in front of and behind the camera [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content