Upsetting The 800-Pound Hollywood Gorilla

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Tim Winter President, Parents Television Council
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It’s not often the behemoth that is Hollywood unites against families, but that’s precisely what is happening to a company that offers families the ability to filter f-words and other adult content from streamed movies and TV.

Disney, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. have collectively sued a company called VidAngel which offers those aforementioned filtering capabilities.

Yes, you read that right. Disney doesn’t want parents to have the ability to skip past profanity, sex scenes, and graphic violence when their children are watching Disney-produced entertainment.

The crux of VidAngel’s business model rests on the Family Movie Act, passed by Congress and signed into law back in 2005, which allows for the creation of technology so parents can filter potentially offensive movie content when they’re watching inside their homes.

When Congress passed the Family Movie Act, the legislative intent was crystal clear: to properly balance the legal and reasonable business needs of Hollywood with the strong public interest goals of making content filtering available to American families.

VidAngel has carefully crafted its business operations – at great financial peril to itself – so as to meet the guidelines set forth in the legislation. They are clearly in compliance with both the spirit and the letter of the Family Movie Act. And, just as the legislation intended, millions of families who otherwise would not be able to view a film or a program are now able to do so.

Ironically, the VidAngel service actually broadens the market of potential customers for Hollywood’s products. And why wouldn’t a business want to dramatically expand its own marketplace?  Is it really about the sanctity of the creative community’s “artwork?”

The studios suing VidAngel must believe that if a standard is good, then a double-standard is twice as good. They are eager to alter or filter content when it suits their own desires.

About a decade ago, NBC secured the broadcast rights to the beloved children’s animated series Veggie Tales. But when the network aired the program, they removed references to God – despite the program being created by Christian producers who hoped to share Christian values.

And when the television program Duck Dynasty was among the most-watched programs every week, “bleeps” were edited into the programming to suggest harsh profanity was being used, even when no actual profanity was being spoken. The network wanted to create the false impression in order to bring more “edginess” to the show, despite the fact that the show was so popular precisely because it was squeaky-clean.

And on every program on every network, promotional materials are placed above or below the program during its broadcast. The “altering” of the producer’s “work” occurs all hours of every day on every network. The notion that Hollywood must vigorously prevent content filtering or editing for the sake of the creative community is simply laughable.

A petition to support VidAngel has been started and can be found at SaveFiltering.com.

VidAngel allows each parent and each family to consume entertainment content inside their home precisely in accord with their personal family standards. If the Hollywood studios convince the Courts to obstruct VidAngel’s legitimate and lawful business, American families will be deprived of the very right granted to them by Congress in the Family Movie Act.

A former MGM and NBC executive, Tim Winter is president of the Parents Television Council and a member of the California Bar Association.