Editorial: In the Giving Season, It’s Time to Listen

Nov 25, 2007  •  Post A Comment

It’s the message blaring at us from all sides this time of year: ‘Tis the season to give.
There are some in the industry who would do especially well to heed those words.
Let’s start with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin. We don’t know what’s behind his mad rush to create and implement new media cross-ownership rules before the end of this year, but he seems determined to steamroller any objections, whether they come from other FCC commissioners, Congress or public-interest groups.
With the FCC’s Democrats, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael J. Copps, warning, “His proposal could propel a frenzy of competition-stifling mergers across the land,” we have to wonder: What’s the hurry? Rather than hurtling headlong into a rule-making that’s practically guaranteed to end up in the courts, Mr. Martin should give a listen to those sure to be affected by the new rules.
Then there’s the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. Something has to give in the negotiations, which resume today. Representatives of both sides must step up and demand that their negotiators, instead of doing their best impression of a brick wall, make meaningful efforts to reach a deal. As “Grey’s Anatomy” costumer Meredith Buyrucu told the New York Times last week, “I am unemployed thanks to both sides not wanting to lose face.”
There is much more than lost face at stake here, however. The entertainment industry is perched on a wave of new technology, and whether that wave will swamp the business or lift it to new heights is not yet clear.
It is certainly clear that new methods of distribution are cropping up right and left. The latest full-length feature from writer-director Edward Burns is debuting on iTunes, where it will be sold for download for $14.99, avoiding any studio distribution machinery. TV veterans Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick created the series “Quarterlife” and, instead of pitching it to a cable or broadcast network, took it to MySpace, where it’s free for viewing on the ad-supported site. Neither model involved anyone from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers or its member companies.
As “Michael Clayton” writer-director Tony Gilroy told the Los Angeles Times last week, “The studios have got to be hoping that this idea about being entrepreneurs doesn’t sweep over the TV showrunners, because once you start seeing really good production values on the Internet, I mean, what does Larry David really need HBO for?”
There must be some give-and-take at the bargaining table, before there’s nothing left to give.


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