Rogers, CTV and the golden age of Hollywood

There was a tweet that came across my feed the other day that asked the question:

What would people think of #Rogers buying #CTV? #crtc

My immediate response was:

Don’t let this bad thing happen! RT  What would people think of #Rogers buying #CTV? #crtc

Here’s a richer description of why it’s a bad thing.

Back in the early days of motion pictures, in what is referred to as the golden age of Hollywood, there where eight studios who essentially owned the movie industry in the US. These studios created the films with writers, directors, producers and actors who they employed as staff. They owned the film processing and laboratories. They created the prints and distributed them through the theaters that they also owned. In a nutshell, they managed the entire process of movie making from beginning to end: design, creation, manufacturing and distribution.

It was good for the studios and their financial position but was it good for the industry? Independent film makers and non-studio owned theaters where at a severe disadvantage and struggled to bring their stories to the public. The creative talent within this studio managed system of production often voiced their dissatisfaction with the repressive regime they toiled under.  The US Department of Justice also thought there was something wrong with a studio controlled oligopoly and sued the major Hollywood studios with unfair trade practices in 1938 and won a decree in 1940 which set out the changes the studios were required to implement. By 1943 it was determined that the studios had not met the conditions set out in the decree and the top eight studios where sued again by the US DOJ. By 1948 as a result of the lawsuit, there was a major change in how the studios conducted business including their relinquishing ownership of theaters across the country. The stranglehold of the Hollywood studios on the North American film industry ended and a new era of independent and alternative film making emerged.

There is no denying that some great movies were made during the golden age of Hollywood. Classics that still impress to this day. Incredible actors, writers and technology which many still view with awe. The flaw with the studio system was in the absolute total control a few people exercised over an entire industry. Decisions were made with their benefit in mind and at a detriment to any who opposed them. In pursuit of profit illegal activities merged with standard operational practice and the business of making movies became a dictatorship which stifled creativity and freedom of thought.

There were specific business practices which formed the basis of the charges against the studios which wouldn’t apply if Rogers owned CTV but the overall vertical integration and total control and ownership of the process would exist. If Rogers added the national broadcaster to their assets they would effectively be in total control of media from beginning to end: content creation, production and distribution. That would be good for Rogers but bad for the rest of the industry, specifically the independent content creators and us, the consumers of media. Many people bash the CRTC but it would be the only organization in a position to keep Rogers from taking control of our media.

Note: Rogers owning CTV may or may not be purely hypothetical but a reality we can’t overlook is Shaw owning Canwest-Global. It may be measured on a smaller scale but it maps out with the same end-to-end ownership of the media and the entertainment business in Canada.


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