Up on Drudge is a link to a state legislator who wants the state to review movie scripts before movies are made. Immediately I thought this was a bad idea for free speech reasons, but now that I’ve read the story, it’s still a bad idea–only for a different reason.
North Carolina Republican State Senator Phil Berger said that the requirement “would apply only to films seeking the state’s lucrative filmmaker incentive, which refunds as much as 15 percent of what productions spend in North Carolina from the state treasury.” In other words, Berger isn’t requiring movies made in North Carolina to be reviewed, he only wants taxpayer-financed movies to be reviewed.
Some of the free speech purists in the audience–which I consider myself to be–will probably object to government intervention in a speech issue. But would you raise the same objection to a private entity who was approached to finance a movie. Would not the financier expect to have some creative input? Is it then reasonable to expect a public financier to provide public money with no input into the finished product? Of course not.
Bill Moyers agrees. Just recently he (very ironically–because the remark came at the end of an hour-long speech encouraging more government regulation and funding of media) noted that this spring he would begin his next media project without public financing, because “it compromises you.”
When somebody else pays, you give up some control. Any bride whose parents financed her wedding knows this to be true.
In a related story, also on Drudge, Google’s founders now admit that their agreement to censor content in exchange for government permission to enter the Chinese market was a mistake.
Finally, there is a very recent Tennessee reminder of what can happen when a government grants assistance to a movie, even when it does screen for content. Thong Girl 3 was a campy film recorded last year in Gallatin’s city offices. While not pornographic, citizens objected to the public assistance since they thought it demeaned the office of the mayor.
The lesson, therefore, is that when media makes deals with governments, you’re not going to like the results. And, by the way, if it’s a movie worth making, why would its makers want government interference anyway?