Response to Empires of Entertainment

TV-icon-EUAIn Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996, Jennifer Holt aims to sketch a broad, yet detailed trajectory of the political, legal and economical changes as well as their consequences on the formation and transformation of the media industry in the United States. Holt’s arguments stress on the claim that telecommunications, cable, broadcast and film studios are interconnected elements of a larger conglomeration within the media industry, and that each should not be viewed as separate. She also stresses on the importance of cable channel along with its relaxed deregulation during the 80s (as HBO single-handedly posed a great threat to the entire Hollywood film studio system) and more constrained re-regulation towards the beginning of the 90s as an essential factor in the foundation and ongoing changes of media conglomerates.

In this book, Holt often criticizes the government’s failure in appreciating the critical interconnection between these different media industries, especially during the period of 1980-1983 when the FCC and DOJ’s suspicion of vertical integration between these industries as a monopolistic act and thus antitrust laws were further enforced. Eventually the redefinition of “market” and of vertical and horizontal integration among industries have become necessary and policy makers have to adapt to this new evolution to bring about new possibilities in terms of market shares, consolidation, and global integration.

Holt’s discussion sheds like on the aggresive “battle” of corporate merging, of legal lobbying, of the re-appreciation of culture and culture as a commercial product. Being an outsider of the American media culture, Holt’s book offers a kaleidoscope of historical capstones of an industry I was never familiar with. The aggressive conglomeration accounted in the book is somewhat a luxury we are never offered back in Vietnam. Interestingly enough, our media industry  commenced with television broadcast when the United States introduced two channels, one in Vietnamese and one in English, in 1960s in Saigon. The two biggest players in the broadcasting and cable landscape nowadays: VTV (the first broadcast channel), and VTC (1988, by American factories) are both founded by American companies. Nowadays these two major competitors are state-owned, thus licensing price, syndication and diffusion are all controlled and manipulated by the government. The film industry, after the shift to market economy in 1986, suffered greatly due to the increasing demand for home video and television as the government opened up for international cultural import. After reading Holt’s book, it becomes interesting for me to see how the events in the media industry in Vietnam, albeit its tiny scale, were influenced and resonated with that of the American industry.

One remark that I find interesting in Holt’s discussion is her comment on the term “filmed entertainment” that media companies employed in their revenue breakdowns.

This is borne out in annual reports, in which the revenue breakdowns differ from conglomerate to conglomerate, but interestingly, “film” does not rate its own category in any of them. It is usually combined with television production in the catch-all “filmed entertainment” category. For the industry that produces the blockbusters and tentpoles, this is a rather undignified accounting. (Holt, 172)

Through out the book Holt has been supporting her claim that film, cable, broadcast are interconnected industries and they should not be considered separately. Here, she raises a somewhat contradicting point, blaming companies for not acknowledging “film” as an independent sector from “television”. I would like to bring up the discussion of this notion of “filmed entertainment”, to see if it’s necessary to group film and television products into one category to further signify the integration across industries, or is it simplifying the importance of these both industries.

Jennifer Holt, Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996 , (Rutgers University Press , 2011).

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Comments

  1. At the end of your post your write:

    I would like to bring up the discussion of this notion of “filmed entertainment”, to see if it’s necessary to group film and television products into one category to further signify the integration across industries, or is it simplifying the importance of these both industries.

    Since we did not have a chance to specifically address this during our discussion of Holt, I hope you’ll bring us back to this issue in one of the coming weeks, as it will continue to be pertinent to a number of the readings ahead.

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