Why Does the Justice Department Care about the Academy Awards?

Academy Awards

The United States Justice Department just warned the Motion Picture Academy that a proposed rule change about eligibility to receive Academy Awards might result in Anti-Trust legal ramifications. Really? This is what the Justice Department of the United States of America is spending their time doing? Threatening award ceremonies about how they decide eligibility? I’ll give you a small hint, the executives of Amazon and Netflix are opposed to the changes and they just might have a dollar or two spend.

First, let’s examine what is being proposed. With the advent and enormous growth of streaming services there are more and more movies spending little or no time in the theaters. They are developed and sold directly for television. Recently the Netflix film Roma received a nomination for Best Picture and this triggered a response from the Academy and particularly influential filmmaker Steven Spielberg. They believe such films should be eligible for Emmy Awards but not Academy Awards. The idea being that the Academy Awards are for movies while the Emmy Awards are for television.

I think there are argument to be made both ways. The made for streaming movies are not in the theaters for any appreciable amount of time, mostly just so they can be eligible for movie awards. However, they are in the traditional movie format and home theaters are more and more becoming a venue for audiences to view first run movies.

We can argue back and forth about whether or not such productions are movies or television shows but it’s beyond my comprehension that the Justice Departments thinks they have a say in this matter. A major award certainly increases publicity and thus revenue for a particular show or movie but it is up to the agency that runs the ceremony to decide upon the rules for inclusion. Just because they choose to exclude a group isn’t an anti-trust violation. They are not engaged in collusion, price-fixing, bid-rigging, or even group boycotting which is, I suspect, the justification for the warning.

Group boycotting is when several companies refuse to do business with a third party unless they stop doing business with a competitor. An example would be a clothing store that refused to purchase a particular line because it was being sold to a competitor of that business.

Despite any Justice Department claims to the contrary, what it is doing is damning in the eyes of this Libertarian. The government is attempting to flex its muscles at the behest of bribes, that is to say campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts, to force an independent company to do business in a way that is favorable to a third party, in this case Amazon and Netflix.

This is a stark example of Crony Capitalism. The government decides how a company does business. It’s destroying the capitalistic spirt of our nation and I’ve written about it elsewhere.

Out, out, foul government. Back to your closet where you belong.

Tom Liberman

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