(Washington) Prominent entertainment industry personalities and executives released a detailed joint letter today joining the outpouring of opposition from the creative community to the set top box mandate being considered at the FCC.
These new rules they warn “would dramatically undo the gains we have made, undermining program diversity, weakening minority representation and ownership in media, and handing over huge chunks of the TV business to Silicon Valley tech companies who have never made time for diverse communities and seem happy to let us languish at the back of the digital bus.”
Those signing the letter include: Val Benning (Producer), Roger Bobb (CEO, Bobcat Fims), Bailey Brown (Actress, Producer), Holly Carter (CEO, Releve Entertainment), Devon Franklin (Producer, Owner Franklin Entertainment), Tamra Goins (Producer, Agent), Rob Hardy (Producer), Elijah Kelley (Actor), Rasheena Nash (Director, Screenwriter), Elrick Williams (CEO, The Africa Channel).
The letter will be filed tomorrow at the FCC.
Full Text of the Joint Letter:
Don’t Whitewash Our TVs
In recent years, communities of color have made unprecedented progress in bringing real diversity to TV – both in front of and behind the camera. Today, more perspectives, viewpoints, and stories and stories have a voice than ever.
This vision owes a lot to the galloping technological change that has opened up incredible new ways to find and watch great shows. From game-changing services like Netflix and Amazon to breakthrough devices like Roku and Apple TV, the television landscape has finally grown big and vital and vibrant enough to fit in all Americans – or at least we are on our way there.
But anyone who has ever fought for progress – on big issues like civil rights, voting, and equal pay and smaller but still important ones like cultural representation and minority media ownership – knows that all gains are temporary and they must be vigorously defended. The forces of reaction and backsliding are fierce.
That is why we have joined together as creators and artists to warn about new government “set top box” rules being considered at the FCC that would dramatically undo the gains we have made, undermining program diversity, weakening minority representation and ownership in media, and handing over huge chunks of the TV business to Silicon Valley tech companies who have never made time for diverse communities and seem happy to let us languish at the back of the digital bus.
A huge array of independent video creators, civil rights leaders, and elected officials representing our communities have spoke up against this rule, including leaders of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, producers like Eva Longoria and Gale Anne Hurd, and stalwarts like the NAACP, the National Urban League, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Japanese American Citizens League, the LGBT Tech Partnership, and many more.
These experts are sounding the alarm against this flawed FCC set top box mandate, and we are proud to stand with them. They have explained how these new rules could drive networks serving diverse audiences out of business, leaving communities of color with less access to independent voices telling stories that reflect their lives. It would be a license for Silicon Valley tech giants to exploit our work for their own profit, without paying us for rights and diverting revenue away from the production of quality shows. And it would unleash a torrent of new video piracy, making it even harder for creators to earn a living off their work.
The result will be less choice for audiences of color seeking quality, authentic programming representative of their experiences – a federal whitewashing of modern television that no American should accept.
Key problems with this proposal include:
Napster for Video – The set top box mandate would allow Silicon Valley firms to scrape our programming and use it for their own purposes – without negotiating or paying for rights. That will “unravel the existing creative ecosystem” and drive down the value of our work, a “money grab” that would do to video what Napster did to music.
As creators committed to a healthy diverse television ecosystem where all are represented and have a voice, we reject the FCC’s effort to relegate our work to the back of the digital bus. Whitewashing America’s televisions to please tech benefactors like Google won’t help viewers, creators, or anyone who cares about diversity and quality in the arts. But it will fundamentally undermine the cause of creative and artistic justice to the detriment of all.