841.4061 Motion Pictures/100: Telegram

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

55. Your 40, January 18, 7 p.m. In a separate telegram16 we have taken up the general question of film legislation and its relation to the trade agreement negotiations. The following comments with regard to the industry’s 14 points are submitted for your information only:

(1) The quota requirement on a footage basis tends to complicate compliance with the requirement and has in practice obliged American companies to produce footage in excess of the quota requirement. To us this seems to be a very reasonable request and one which the British could easily meet.

The request for progressive decrease in the quota represents a compromise from a request for immediate suppression of quantitative restrictions. While we recognize that the complete elimination of a quota would be difficult if not impossible for the British, we nevertheless feel that if a quota is necessary it should be kept at a low point; say 10 percent. Judging from the comments in your telegram the British trade agreement delegation once it arrives in Washington will have no authority in respect of motion pictures other than to bind such initial quota as may be adopted in the legislation now under consideration.

(2) It is quite unreasonable, except perhaps for a temporary initial period, to impose a quota requirement for renters in excess of the quota requirement for exhibitors. Such a requirement could easily result in the forced production of motion pictures for which there would be no market in Great Britain.

3. The objections to the “Double Quota” plan are too obvious to need comment. We hope that as suggested in your telegram the plan will be dropped and of course that there will be no substitute for it.

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(4) We think that the viewing test is objectionable and we agree with the industry that there should be no other quality test except that based on cost per foot.

(5) It would seem that this point is by way of being worked out satisfactorily between the Board of Trade and the industry.

(6) This point seems to be on the way to solution.

(7) If the British are really interested in obtaining improved production and improved pictures it would seem to be in their interest to give quota recognition to the more expensive and thus higher quality pictures. They have apparently given recognition to this point in part under (5) above.

(8) We do not see why as suggested by you in your telegram that this request strikes at the core of the British legislation. If the purpose of the British legislation is to reserve a share of the market for British production it would seem that so long as our industry as a whole conformed to that share requirement the purpose of the British legislation would be fully maintained. It would hardly seem necessary for each individual company to purchase or produce the required quota so long as the whole of the competing industry meets the requirement.

(9) It is the position of the American industry that there are not enough sufficiently qualified technicians and other qualified personnel now available in Great Britain so that American interests can produce quality pictures. Really qualified technicians in Great Britain are apparently under contract to the big British producing companies. Therefore, if the British are seeking to build up the quality of pictures produced in Great Britain there should be liberalization on this point.

(10) Any comments on this point would be the same as those made in paragraph numbered (2) above. We certainly do not see why Brown should claim that it is impossible to alter this provision.

(11) We are naturally glad to learn that the idea of a “Control Commission” is dead.

(12) The industry’s opposition to a quota on short films has been explained as being based on the fact that short films and newsreels are not in themselves commercially profitable and are in fact produced almost solely because of necessity of furnishing exhibitors with a complete program. The feature films are almost always shown in conjunction with these shorter films which are needed to fill out the program.

(13) While this point is one of lesser importance it does seem unreasonable to expect only one party to an offense should be subject to a penalty.

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(14) This point is likewise of lesser importance but nevertheless the position of the American interests seems reasonable.

We repeat that the foregoing comments are submitted only for your information at this time. Any further action which we might suggest in connection with this problem must necessarily depend on the British answer to this proposal made in our No. 42 January 31, 9 p.m.

  1. Telegram No. 42, January 31, 9 p.m., to the Chargé in the United Kingdom, p. 10.