The Department of Justice announced today their decision to initiate the process of terminating the Paramount Consent Decrees.
The Decrees were decided in the Supreme Court case United States vs. Paramount Pictures, Inc in 1948, a decision that found the existing distribution system in Hollywood was in violation of US anti-trust laws. In effect, the Paramount Decrees stopped Hollywood studios from fine-tuning vertical integration and consolidating even more power than they had already accumulated in the first few decades of the 20th century.
Vertical integration in Hollywood historically is a system of controlling the production, distribution, and exhibition of outputs, effectively cornering all money-making angles of one’s product. Hollywood used this to build the studio systems and Golden Age you think of when you think of classic Hollywood. It seems like glamour, and doesn’t sound bad at first, but this is how monopolies and oligopoloies are built and will lead to corporations – that already have a stranglehold on massive swaths of the entertainment industry – to acquire more and more control over the leisure market.
For example, if Studio X bought a chain of cinemas, they would only show their films in their cinemas. Assuming Studio X can afford to buy the most cinemas, they will get all the profits from distributing and exhibiting their own films, growing their empire even more and demolishing any competitors.
Terminating the decrees will lead to independent studios going bankrupt, independent art houses failing, and a return to the Studio Era with a new ‘Big Five’ owning and operating everything. Overturning this decision now will also loosen restrictions on concessions, streaming platforms, and corporate partnerships within the entertainment industry, as well as introduce the possibility for a new morality code and censorship bureau.
Vertical integration in Hollywood in modernity means handing over a massive, international cultural industry – an industry that informs many peoples’ morals, interests, politics, and passions – to a handful of corporations who can pay the highest bids. Giving control of the film industry back to a handful of studios is allowing a corporatist takeover of one of America’s most important media outlets of the 20th and 21st centuries.
If you feel this decision is wrong in any way, there are some things you can do to resist it. Support local and small artists, theatres, and businesses as always. Vote in November for representatives you’ve thoroughly researched – we need the next Justice to be someone who would work to overturn this affront to anti-trust American values. Write to your representatives now to publicly oppose this decision. Remember, this is corporatism, not capitalism. Independent artists, theatres, and businesses cannot survive when vertical integration is condoned, nor can individuals’ liberties and control over their own media consumption.