Hollywood executives are bracing for increased scrutiny over how their films are censored on behalf of the Chinese government, as the Department of Defense (DOD) prepares new regulations that would crack down on potential Chinese influence over U.S. media, Deadline reported Monday.
When the regulations are finalized, the DOD will be prohibited from funding or otherwise allowing the use of funds to support any “entertainment project” that either “has complied or is likely to comply” with a censorship request from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that promotes the interests of the CCP, according to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. It is not uncommon for the U.S. government to collaborate with films and other projects centered on the military, such as the popular “Top Gun: Maverick,” according to Deadline.
“The language is designed to counter China’s campaign to control what Americans hear, see and ultimately think,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told Deadline. “Under this provision, Hollywood studios that want to work with the government — things like using military locations or resources for filming — will have to keep the CCP off of the set and out of the editing room.”
Some members of the industry note that both the number of U.S. films exported to China and that get assistance from the DOD are small, although there are some concerns that this will further limit films from being exported to China, Deadline reported. Others see the provision as a way for Republicans to make Hollywood a bigger political target, according to Deadline.
“It’s a very silly political statement that has no real-world application,” Schuyler Moore, an entertainment finance attorney at Los Angeles-based Greenberg Gluskey, told Deadline.
“Top Gun: Maverick” drew criticism from Republicans, such as Cruz, when a trailer replaced the flag patches for Japan and Taiwan on a jacket worn by Tom Cruise’s character, Deadline reported. Although the flags were restored in the final version of the movie shown to U.S. audiences, they were still replaced in the Chinese version. (RELATED: Trump Officials Offer Inconsistent Explanations About Prior Chinese Spy Balloons)
Then-Attorney General William Barr under President Donald Trump targeted films such as “World War Z” and “Doctor Strange” in 2020 over reports that they had made changes to better appeal to the Chinese market, Deadline reported. Barr described the efforts as a “massive propaganda coup for the Chinese Communist Party.”
Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, chairman of the newly established select committee on China, warned both Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger and NBA commissioner Adam Silver that they would likely be made to testify before the committee on their company’s business in China. Cruz told Deadline that expects that the Biden administration will “faithfully” enact the NDAA provision.
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