Frustration, Fones, and Film

AT&T WirelessOkay, so that title’s a little stupid. Oh, well...

First of all, I’m starting to get a little frustrated with AT&T Wireless after seven attempts to upgrade my service to the new GSM network. I had been waffling for a while, but after Tom Bridge’s recommendation, I decided to go ahead and spring for the Sony-Ericsson T616. But between systems being down (apparently, since the first of November) and difficulties with my account (it’s a business account, so I had to track down obscure “foundation account numbers” before they could make any changes), I have yet to be able to get the process started. And we’re not even talking about the negotiation I’m going to have to do to get the phone price down to the new-subscriber level (and that’s a deal-breaker for me).

MoviesAnd then on top of that, I was looking forward to researching a story I heard on NPR the other morning, about how UNESCO has just passed a resolution in support of national sponsorship of the film industry; in other words, nations wouldn’t be penalized (tradewise) for underwriting production costs. Hollywood, naturally, opposes the resolution, since it wants to hang onto its virtual monopoly in international film distribution. But alas, I haven’t been able to find any text-based versions of the story out there in cyberspace — just the NPR audio. Which is fine, but I’d been hoping to find more supporting info (particularly since NPR’s intro to the story was a tad misleading). After all, here was a story that combined both film and politics. And nothing so inflammatory as to cause me to violate my “no-vitriol” rule.

But I’ll work with what I’ve got.

Basically the United States rejoined UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in September, after having been out for 19 years. The intro to the story claimed that the U.S. had joined just in time to stop the drafting of an International Convention on Cultural Diversity; the Convention would have legally formalized a system whereby individual nations could finance their respective motion picture industries without trade penalties. For example, Amélie was financed in part by France’s “exception for culture,” a model for the UNESCO version. The actual story recanted a bit of the intro’s statement, though, saying that while the U.S. delegation opposes the provisions of the Convention, it’s not actually stopping it, preferring instead to step lightly and influence the final wording. (The foreign supporters of the draft are holding out the carrot of assistance with Hollywood’s piracy problems in exchange for support, so nobody’s being too combative just yet.)

The U.S. wants to keep the film industry under the purview of the WTO, where Hollywood can demand access to foreign markets. Still, when Hollywood controls 80 percent of the movies shown in foreign markets — as compared with the less than one percent share foreign films hold here — it strikes me that Hollywood is treading dangerously close to monopoly territory. I’m no U.S.-basher (really, I’m not), nor am I anti-Hollywood, by any means. But I don’t think that the American motion picture industry is really going to be hurt by something like this. Yeah, foreign films will be easier to produce, but in the long run, if foreign audiences want American films (and everything would seem to indicate they do), then Hollywood will be able to distribute them.

In any case, I’m hoping somebody will pick up this story, so it’ll be easier to follow as it progresses.


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