American Film Market: Open internet access top concern

Net Neutrality a must to counter media consolidation

afm_diary1.png BY AUSTIN BURBRIDGE. 2008 AMERICAN FILM MARKET, SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA (CINEMA MINIMA) — In an exclusive interview with Cinema Minima, Lloyd Kaufman — Chairman of the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) — explained why net neutrality remains a very significant concern for independent filmmakers and distributors.

“My own firm, Troma Entertainment, depends on its Web site to reach its audience. [The U.S. TV network] NBC has launched Hulu.com to show its own product. Without a policy of net neutrality, NBC Universal Cable can stop its internet customers from visiting troma.com — and the Web sites of every other, competing company.”

In a video presentation at the 2008 ITFA Production Conference, Kaufman emphasized the importance of getting United States government regulations which would guarantee unrestricted access for American Internet users. Unrestricted access to all Web sites and online services is something which Big Media — including the Motion Picture Association of America — want to do away with.

Net neutrality is not the standard for American cable-TV companies, which also supply Internet access to their subscribers. At the moment, cable companies can legally prevent their customers from accessing any Web sites — such as those of competitors. The most notorious instance is that of Cox Communications’ blocking access to Craigslist in markets where Cox newspapers compete with it for classified ads. (Cox also blocks its subscribers from access to Cinema Minima in some markets.)

The IFTA is lobbying the United States to institute net neutrality as a policy. What are the chances? “I’m optimistic,” opined Kaufman. “The thinking is, that the new [Obama] administration would be sympathetic to net neutrality, because Barack Obama’s campaign benefited from unrestricted access to the Internet to raise funds in the recent election.”

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Austin Burbridge

Austin Burbridge is Executive Editor of Cinema Minima for Movie Makers Worldwide. He co-founded Cinema Minima in 1997. In 2007 he started its initiatives, "Sustainable Cinema," and "Far From Hollywood." He works at TBWA\ Media Arts Lab and TBWA\ MAL\ FOR GOOD.