841.4061 Motion Pictures/96: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson)

42. Your 40, January 18, 7 p.m. The film legislation as now proposed is in many important respects unsatisfactory to the American industry and to us. Furthermore it would appear that the British intend to put this legislation through Parliament early in February. We are now on the eve of trade agreement negotiations and the British Government cannot ignore the fact that motion pictures will necessarily be an important item of discussion during these negotiations. We could not accept as valid a refusal to take action based on the recent adoption of legislation in Great Britain. It seems to us that there would be only two satisfactory alternatives in this matter: (1) if any legislation is adopted prior to the trade agreement negotiations, such legislation should come reasonably within the limits of our trade agreement demands or (2) the enactment of new legislation should be delayed until such time as to afford full opportunity for discussion between the two trade agreement delegations or preferably by Ambassador Kennedy with the appropriate British authorities in London.

We understand the political considerations which the British Government must necessarily give to this question and also the importance which the British attach to the whole film problem. At the same time we expect the British to realize and recognize the importance which we attach to a satisfactory solution of this question and to the elimination of excessive and unreasonable barriers to commerce in this commodity.

It had been our expectation that Ambassador Kennedy would have arrived in London and the British delegation would have arrived in Washington in time for a full discussion of this whole question. As you know Ambassador Kennedy was obliged to postpone his sailing and it was necessary to delay the arrival here of the British delegation. The interim between Ambassador Kennedy’s arrival and the date of the expiration of the existing legislation would hardly afford sufficient opportunity for a full exchange of views between the two governments. Ambassador Kennedy was formerly in the motion picture business, and is unusually well qualified and informed with regard to this problem and film problems in general. He is convinced that with sufficient opportunity he can arrive at an understanding which would be acceptable both to the British Government and to the American industry, and is prepared to take up the problem as soon as he has been officially received.

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In order that Ambassador Kennedy may have sufficient time to arrive at an understanding with the British it is suggested that the British might enact interim legislation extending the expiration date of existing legislation by say 60 or 90 days. Will you, therefore, take up this matter urgently with the appropriate British authorities and endeavor to work out with them a solution of the time element.

Ambassador Kennedy saw Ambassador Lindsay this afternoon and discussed with him the possibility of delay; Lindsay seemed favorably disposed.