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How Monopolies are Making TV Worse

 |  November 20, 2023

By: G. Vaughn Joy (Promarket)

In August of 2023, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the labor union representing screenwriters, released a report titled “The New Gatekeepers: Disney, Amazon, and Netflix Shaping the Future of Media.” The report delved into the current state of Hollywood, highlighting the risks associated with the growing trend of vertical integration within the industry. Vertical integration involves a studio owning the entire process of producing, distributing, and exhibiting its content. Drawing parallels to the repealed Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (Fin-Syn) as a historical reference, the WGA advocated for the implementation of antitrust regulations, with a specific focus on the dominant players in the entertainment sector: Walt Disney Company, Amazon, and Netflix.

The Origin of Fin-Syn and the Influence of 1970s Cable Shows

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the Fin-Syn rules in 1970 to address the issue of vertical integration in the television industry. Before 1948, Hollywood itself was vertically integrated until consent decrees from the Supreme Court compelled the separation of the exhibition arms of major film studios within the Studio System.

As Hollywood adapted to the new antitrust regulations and the evolving entertainment landscape in the 1950s, the television industry gained prominence, led by three radio broadcasting companies. Throughout the 1960s, these broadcasters, operating without the same antitrust scrutiny as the film industry, consolidated their influence and adopted vertical integration practices reminiscent of earlier studios. This led to federal intervention and a renewed commitment to dismantling entertainment monopolies in 1980…