29th April 2008

Uncle Lloyd’s Remedy for What Ails Giant Media

posted in `Roids |

(taken from TVweek.com’s “Guest Commentary” spot – April 2008)

Times are getting tough in the television industry. The viewing public seems to be moving on toward video games and YouTube. Box office receipts haven’t been setting any records.
Today’s reality is that stock of companies like Viacom, News Corp., GE and their brethren are low, and only getting lower. And hey—Time Warner, maybe closing New Line and firing 600 people wasn’t the best idea, considering your stock is lower now than before dumping the house that Freddy and the Hobbits built.

But who am I to talk?

As chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance and the president of Troma Entertainment, one of the world’s longest running independent film companies, I usually find myself speaking for the little guy. In fact, some might say I’ve made a career of speaking for the little guy, especially when those little guys include the 170 member companies of IFTA, first-time directors, toxic mutants, up-and-coming producers and dispossessed Indian chicken zombies.

But now I’ve decided to extend my benevolence to the giant media conglomerates that may need a leg-up from old Uncle Lloyd. I am proposing a plan to help these fine mega-conglomerates dig themselves out of the holes they’ve created and make more money.

You may be asking yourself, “What are you thinking, Lloyd? Have you finally lost it?” Have no fear. You heard it here first: I want big media conglomerates to make more money—loads of it. Here’s how…

Many, many years ago, in a far-off land called the 1970s and ‘80s, creative and independent content flourished on television. But in the mid-‘90s, the realm of mainstream television was essentially closed to independent entertainment providers with the repeal of the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (Fin/Syn). With one swift knee to the groin, diversity was all but eliminated in American television and guess who wound up crying in a fetal position on the floor? I won’t keep you in suspense. It was me. Me and all the other independent producers out there.

But just as severely, if not quite as painfully, the viewing public also suffered. Prior to the repeal of Fin/Syn, nearly one-half of the Emmys given for “Best Drama” and “Best Comedy” series were awarded to independent producers. Since then, however, independent production has fallen from 50% in 1995 to only 18% of primetime television programming today. At the same time, we can look at television’s rapidly shrinking market share and scratch our heads. Coincidence? I hate to say I told you so guys, but…

Oh hell… I told you so.

Listen up, giant media conglomerates, because I’m going to tell you a secret…

Independent content gets people excited and attracts audiences to television. Just look at some of the most award-winning, creative content of the last few years. Films like Million Dollar Baby, Monster and Crash (which, by the way, is being developed into a television series) —all independent! Instead of economically blacklisting independent content, big corporations should embrace it. Why not restore some form of Fin/Syn and allow independently produced and supplied content back onto the airwaves? In fact, here’s a crazy thought, giant media, why wait for regulations to catch up? Your stocks are falling now, so take action. Why not voluntarily open your cartel-like networks and reap the benefits of exciting and creative independent content people want to see?

Don’t be afraid, Mr. Time Warner-HBO-AOL. You’ll get better content and more viewers; and with them more ad revenues. Economic competition is what our capitalist society is based on, so let’s capitalize. And, hey, Mr. Viacom-CBS-Showtime—with more independent content and a competitive environment, more of the public might give up some time on YouTube and return to watching television.

And here’s an idea, when it comes to the Internet, stop your attempts to colonize. Colonization almost never works; just ask the French. Your fight against net neutrality and attempts to marginalize independents make you look bad in the eyes of the public. Say this with me… “I, giant media, do not need to control the Internet.” Now say it again to yourself, because it’s important. This Hulu coup you’re working on smells very much like an attempt to turn the last bastion of democratic expression into something resembling ABC, NBC, CBS and the CIA. To paraphrase Chris Cocker’s YouTube plea on behalf of Britney: “Leave the Internet alone!” With creative content flowing freely, the profit pie will grow bigger and there will be enough to feed everyone. Even you, Mr. Fox-News Corp.!

For us independents, this issue is essentially fight or die. When we started Troma Entertainment in the 1970s, there were dozens of long-lived independent studios. Today, IFTA members include only a handful of independent studios more than ten years old. We have been ridiculed, ignored and blacklisted, but we’re still here because the world needs independent art and artists.

But the independents and the viewers aren’t the only ones to benefit from free expression. Creative and entertaining content means more viewers. More viewers means more money. So come on, giant media conglomerates, do the math. Let’s get together, level the playing field just a little bit, make love not war and more important, make some money. And while we’re at it, let’s give art back to the people.

Lloyd Kaufman is chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance and co-founder and president of Troma Entertainment.

There are currently 5 responses to “Uncle Lloyd’s Remedy for What Ails Giant Media”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On May 9th, 2008, Ryan Page said:

    Fair point Lloyd. Capitalist society requires restrictions in order to operate at any worthwhile level. Keep it independent Lloyd, thanks for all the films and inspiration.

  2. 2 On May 14th, 2008, Matthew Corbin said:

    So is that the reason why all Troma films quickly disappeared from USA Up All Night in the mid 90’s? Because of the Fin/Syn Rules being repealed?
    Lloyd, I agree with your ideas, history will show that allowing a free market for creativity does encourage a thriving market for film and television.
    The current state the megaconglomerates are in, I liken them to a bunch of buck-toothed, backwards, backwater families. By not allowing themselves to mingle with fresh genes, being like Troma, they’re just going to keep birthing retards like the upcoming remake to the Nobel Prize-winning 2003 remake of The Incredible Hulk or the two and a half hour long Transformers commercial.

  3. 3 On July 23rd, 2008, Greg Havens said:

    With all of the, probably thousands, of scripts floating around out there and shelved by the Mr. Creosote’s of the big studios. It’s no wonder we choke on the same vile shit repackaged, regurgitated, and re-ingested by the American movie goer. After the first ten to fifteen minutes of the “Hollywood formula” I can walk out cause I know exactly what is going to happen. No one on this forum would likely disagree with me on that front. We all have the same desire, even if they are a bit kinky. We want to be entertained and not hypnotized or sedated by a film. Good or bad, camp or amped, we need it. So Lloyd me dear old friend from back in the day, keep up the good work and hopefully I’ll be in production in 4Q 2009 on my first solo effort. Until then, keep waving the flag for us all and fighting the good fight. We are damn proud of you. And for those that disagree with us, what the hell are you doin’ here. You should be doing something truly useful like feeding bunnies, hugging burning trees, or orally artificially inseminating livestock.

  4. 4 On October 28th, 2008, pete the killer said:

    i need therapy

  5. 5 On November 26th, 2008, Wolfe said:

    Excellent commentary Uncle Lloyd! You are so correct in the fact that the big studios are afraid of any other than recycle old scripts and just throw names into them hoping they will sell. You would appreciate what Doug Bradley said on the matter. He stated “Any executive with his snout in the remake trough should be fired. They should be out there looking for the next Carpenter, Tarantino etc etc.” Hollywood fears taking risks that the independent studios such as your own Troma are willing to risk. Either way Uncle Lloyd, keep up the great work. I enjoyed Poultrygeist and love the fact that you have kept to the same level of standards you used in the past

    PS. Would you be willing to accept a script that returns Sgt Kabukiman NYPD to his old honorable self?

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