Viacom Chairman Says Television's Golden Years Are Still Ahead Series: GLOBAL FRONTIERS. Part 3 of a 4-Part Series. Third of Eight Articles Appearing Today

By Fred Hift, | The Christian Science Monitor, May 9, 1991 | Go to article overview

Viacom Chairman Says Television's Golden Years Are Still Ahead Series: GLOBAL FRONTIERS. Part 3 of a 4-Part Series. Third of Eight Articles Appearing Today


Fred Hift,, The Christian Science Monitor


EUROPEANS may agonize over what they perceive as American dominance in film and television, but government restrictions are not the answer, says Henry Schleiff, chairman and chief executive of Viacom Broadcasting and Entertainment Groups. Viacom is the largest independent supplier and distributor of television programs in the United States and abroad.

"You cannot synthetically create a product simply by imposing quotas and preventing the competition from coming in," he said.

"It's the wrong way to go about it. Competition, whether it's internal or comes from abroad, will eventually improve your own game. Look at what happened when the American government lifted restrictions on the importation of Japanese cars. It hurt for a while, but Detroit eventually improved its own cars and gauged what the public wants from an automobile."

Some Europeans, led by the French, have argued that the flood of Hollywood movies and TV shows is strangling their own production industries. The answer has been the imposition of quotas that limit the American imports and the time they can take up on local television channels. The quota concept, accepted in varying degrees by the members of the EC, is vocally opposed, as one might expect, by the Americans.

"There is probably a sensible balance between having the benefit of American or other competing cultures in your own domestic market, particularly if it reaches the point where your own home-grown entertainment is shut out," Mr. Schleiff said.

"The hard part in life is to find a balance between what is appropriate and what is not. In the case of American TV programs in Europe, I think you are seeing the line drawn at extremes in both cases. …

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