Motion Picture Licensing Corporation comes around?

To many people interested in public diplomacy, Hollywood movies are generally seen as an important element in global engagement. Movies can inform others about our culture, for good or bad, and they can tell stories of local relevance based on shared beliefs and morals or retelling history. An generally, if not nearly completely, unknown reality was the restrictions the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation placed on the State Department’s ability to show Hollywood movies abroad. The absurd restrictions were highlighted in last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s report titled “U.S. Public Diplomacy–Time to Get Back in the Game” (see this post).

The report recommended the State Department re-engage the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation to change overly restrictive licensing that severely inhibits public awareness of showings of American films by America’s public diplomats. Below are the comments from the Committee report on the terms of “negotiated” by the State Department:

Paragraph 20 of the State Department’s message regarding the [Memorandum of Understanding] to Embassies worldwide expressly notes the following were agreed to:

“The films many be screened for audiences of up to 100 people per screening.

They may not be screened for larger audiences.”

“No advertising is permitted. No specific titles or characters from such titles or producers’ names may be advertised or publicized to the general public.”

Embassy officials report they have been contacted by the MPLC when films are announced on the Internet. To avoid this, many now simply post movie showings on a bulletin board in their facilities – a perfectly painful example of how, in the age of text messaging, our government is forced to operate in methods no different from the 19th century.

Continue reading “Motion Picture Licensing Corporation comes around?