841.4061 Motion Pictures/107
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)
The British Ambassador came to see me this afternoon. He asked whether I was familiar with Mr. Kennedy’s call last week during which Mr. Kennedy had suggested that the passage of new British film legislation be delayed until he had a chance to discuss with Mr. Oliver Stanley and other British authorities the possibilities of working out a more satisfactory solution. He, Sir Ronald Lindsay, had cabled urging that this proposition be accepted. He always had the mental reservation that acceptance might be impossible for technical reasons and now to his regret he found that this was the case. It seems that Parliamentary procedure is so rigid that it is not possible at this late date to change the plans agreed upon. The schedule of legislation has been laid out, time has been allocated, et cetera. Nor was the suggestion of passing interim legislation prolonging the status quo for a short time a feasible one.
On the other hand, although it was not possible to meet our request for deferring legislation, some of the points brought up by Mr. Kennedy would be met by the introduction of amendments at the “report” stage.
I told Sir Ronald that I was exceedingly disappointed at the message he had just given me and that I knew my principals would feel so too. I certainly was not qualified to discuss any of the technical issues involved. I had been hoping, however, that a procedure had been found which would enable the two Governments to work out a solution of the film problem in its relation to the trade agreement talks about to begin. As matters now stood, Britain was passing legislation which not only impaired the position of our moving picture interests in Great Britain but was effectively removing this problem from trade discussions. We had mentioned to Chalkley and others last summer and again subsequently, in fact we had emphasized the point, that we considered motion pictures which were our largest non-agricultural export to Great Britain to fall within the purview of these talks. Quite frankly we had not felt that our point of view was given the consideration it deserved. Sir Ronald replied that everybody had known for ten years that the present legislation [Page 16]would expire at the end of March and must be replaced by new legislation and that thus no new factor had been introduced. Furthermore, he said that in many ways the situation of the American films would be improved inasmuch as the quota to start with would be reduced from 20 to 15% although it might later be raised to 30%. “Think of that”, he said, with considerable sarcasm, “think of Great Britain asking to reserve for itself 30% of the output in a great cultural product”. I told him that I could not argue as to the ways in which the new bill changed the position of things but that all experts who had worked on the problem felt that it did mark a deterioration in the treatment accorded our film interests. He replied that of course the industry would make out that it was seriously injured whether or not the facts bore this out; as a matter of fact, the industry had taken vast sums of money out of Great Britain and should not complain because the public was now insisting on the creation of local film industry. He went into a long argument on the reason why one could not make a comparison between items of trade having a cultural interest and other items of purely mercantile value. I told him that I had heard of these arguments for many years but I thought they had scant validity.
I said that I would of course report what lie said to Mr. Hull, and would also tell Mr. Kennedy. I was afraid, however, that it would cause real disappointment and might even leave an aftertaste. Unquestionably it would be felt to alter the picture as we saw it on the eve of entering into negotiations. I obviously could not be more specific, but the effective removal from any possible intergovernmental discussions of our principal non-agricultural export must in the nature of things affect our attitude toward some of their exports to us.
He shrugged his shoulders and said “it was too bad”.