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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

how much national cultural protectionism is feasible in a wired world?

French TV

This is a few weeks old now, but the subject is one of ongoing debate. From The New York Times:

France is digging in its heels on protecting its film and television industries from foreign competition.

The French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, told the French Parliament on Wednesday that France “would go as far as using its right of veto” to protect its cultural industries.

Intense lobbying on the issue from the other side has begun by American technology and media companies, including the online movie distributor Netflix, which want easier access to European markets.

The core issue for countries like France is the “control of the digital space and the implications of the evolution of the digital economy, for culture,” a senior European diplomat said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the effort to reach a deal with France.

“The reality is that the global market is currently dominated by U.S. operators, and that is why it is such a sensitive issue,” said the diplomat. He cited Google, Apple and Netflix among the leading American companies in markets where European competitors, not only French ones, lag far behind.

Other European countries are happy to treat their media like a commodity when it comes to dealing for other access to U.S. markets, ones unrelated to media, but:

in France, filmmakers are among those describing the stakes in stark terms. Using media as a bargaining chip “breaks deeply held European beliefs and jeopardizes our cultural identity, particularly in the online world, for incredibly short-term and tactical gains,” said Frédéric Goldsmith, the general manager of the Association des Producteurs de Cinéma, an industry group in Paris representing small and midsize feature film production companies.

Meanwhile, American companies like Netflix hope to use the trade negotiations with Europe to remove barriers erected over the years to hold back a full-scale invasion from Hollywood. Netflix is apparently among companies seeking to stream movies in Europe without being required to show locally sponsored films and programs as well.

Bronxbee, who sent me this link, wonders:

do you think sovereign nations such as france, belgium, greece, have the right to prevent an invasion of cultural raiders, as well as physical ones? should they?

should US media be allowed to come into european markets and not have to carry european, or local, programming?

I think it’s pretty clear that nations have the right to try to prevent cultural invasion and boost their own cultural products. I just don’t know how feasible that is anymore, when anyone can get online and watch material from all over the planet, or import their own DVDs (or music, or books) from overseas retailers.

Of course, even when one gets online, most of the stuff one is going to find to stream will be Hollywood stuff anyway…

So there’s the Question of the Week:

How much national cultural protectionism is feasible in a wired world?

What do you think? Would you want your country to protect you from too much entertainment from another culture?

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

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