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Jack Valenti on USSR pirating, "odious" quotas, Japan ownership.

Jack Valenti on USSR Pirating, "Odious" Quotas, Japan Ownership

Faced with a rudderless and semi-decentralized Soviet Union, the American movie studios will continue their ban on licensing films there until it is clear who actually wields authority, and unless strong copyright laws with legal teeth are passed to punish video piracy.

So said Jack Valenti, president and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, in an interview with Movie/Video Age International. Valenti also made the following points.

The industry's total income from abroad today stands at 40 per cent of its overall revenue, and continues to grow in relation to the domestic arena. While the MPAA is tight-lipped about revenues, the international end is said to contribute about $5.6 billion from all sources this year, against $5 billion in 1990. Foreign sales accounted for only about 27 to 30 per cent a few years ago.

European and particularly French TV quotas, while "odious," nevertheless seem a fact of life and, while they may not be immediately harmful, may well become so.

The MPAA is closely studying the European Economic Community's complicated new satellite directive, by way of preparing its own position.

Valenti -- MPAA president now for a quarter of a century -- said the situation in Moscow was "extremely frustrating," because "we have to know to whom we should talk. Do we go to 15 republics, or do we go to four republics? Is there a central authority?

"Our aim is two-fold: We want to have a collection of republics in that part of the world, pass laws that will be strongly protective of copy right, and we want them to express their resolve to enforce them. Until then, we are not sending any movies over there."

Valenti said he had discussed the matter recently with the Secretary of State, and with Robert Strauss, the new U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

As for the independents continuing to sell their films to the Soviets, Valenti said he hadn't discussed the matter with the AFMA. "All I know is that, if the independents go in there, their stuff is going to be stolen," he emphasized.

In terms of the industry's expanding income from abroad, the MPAA chief said it was "a very good development. It is the area for the future growth of our business."

As for the domestic market, which turned soft most of the summer, Valenti said the period wasn't a perfect gauge for the year. "We'll have to see how Christmas comes out, and whether or not we can recoup some of the losses of those past months."

Valenti recently returned from a quickie trip to France and Italy where, among other issues, he discussed the vexing question of quotas. France has just adopted a new arrangement under which French TV must play 40 per cent French fare and import 20 per cent from other EEC countries. The remaining 40 per cent can be American.

"Those quotas are odious, though some argue that we aren't being hurt by them," Valenti commented. "They don't realize that you always get hurt by quotas as the market expands.

"Those quotas will have to be phased out over a period of years. They are said to spring from a desire to protect the local culture. But you don't need 60 per cent of your air time to protect culture. For that matter, what is European culture? I am not aware of any Greek or Spanish programs on French television. Each European country has its own culture. I think that, rather than a protection of culture, the quota is really meant to enhance commerce."

Valenti was resigned to changes in Hollywood and the new influence of the Japanese. Two of the MPAA's members -- Columbia Pictures and MCA/Universal are now in Japanese hands.

"As far as I can tell the Japanese ownership hasn't changed by one iota the management of those studios." Valenti said. "After all, the Japanese came to buy the most wanted exports in the world. They didn't buy the studio facilities. The American creative community is still a superior creative group, and it will remain so."

He personally doesn't have any negative feelings about the Japanese acquisitions. "I go around the world preaching a free marketplace," he said. "How can I preach that doctrine abroad, and then preach a contradictory doctrine here?"

Asked about the future, Valenti wryly quoted Heraclitus, All things are in flux, the ancient Greek philosopher said," he smiled. "Who knows what exciting new things, what changes are coming up? What we do know is that people will always have an appetite for storytelling. How those stories are brought to them doesn't really matter."
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Title Annotation:president and ceo of the Motion Picture Association of America
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:782
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