Exclusive — Conservative Leaders Demand Jeff Sessions Intervene in Disney-Fox Merger over ‘Harmful and Explicit Content’ Concerns

Collage of Disney store in Times Square and Fox Studios
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Several top conservative movement leaders are pressing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to intervene in a proposed Disney merger with 21st Century Fox over concerns that the resulting essentially monopolistic control of content creation in one company would produce even more “harmful and explicit content” inappropriate for children and families.

The conservative movement leaders wrote to Sessions in a letter obtained exclusively by Breitbart News:

Disney and 21st Century Fox are seeking Justice Department approval for one of the largest media mergers in American history. The proposed consolidation raises obvious 1st Amendment concerns, as a new Disney-Fox company would control a substantial portion of the U.S. entertainment market.

“Given Disney’s long track record of bullying its competitors, we are deeply concerned that such a merger would also consolidate the two biggest Hollywood studios creating family-friendly content,” the letter also says, adding, “As DOJ’s Antitrust Division weighs the merits of this proposal, we ask that it examine closely the behavior of Disney and Fox toward their competitors specifically with regard to family-friendly entertainment.”

Leaders who signed the letter to Sessions include Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Dr. James Dobson of Family Talk; former Sen. Jim DeMint; American Values President Gary Bauer: Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning; Cross Church senior pastor Dr. Ronnie Floyd; Parents TV Council President Timothy Winter; ForAmerica President David Bozell; Traditional Values Coalition President Andrea Lafferty; Eagle Forum President Eunie Smith; Hope Christian Church bishop and senior pastor Harry Jackson; Alabama’s Wetumpka Tea Party President Becky Gerritson; the president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Patrick Trueman, columnist Rebecca Hagelin; Media Research Center President Brent Bozell; and Protect Family Rights founder Bill Aho.

The letter comes as the Department of Justice reviews the proposed merger, one of the biggest consolidations of media content creation in American history—and one of at least two major looming media mergers before the Justice Department right now. Conservatives are concerned that the consolidation of media power in just a few corporate hands could have devastating effects on American culture.

“In 2005, in the face of vehement opposition from Disney, Congress passed the Family Movie Act (largely codified at 17 U.S.C. § 110(11)),” they wrote to Sessions, continuing:

Congress was compelled to offer this protection to American consumers because Hollywood had attempted to drive out of business every company that enabled parents to protect their children by filtering mature content families watched in the privacy of their homes. Indeed, Hollywood had refused to make any concessions, even declining to make the cleaner “airline versions” of movies available for private home viewing. This anti-competitive behavior was and is designed to preserve Disney’s and Fox’s preeminent positions as the leaders in family-friendly entertainment by wiping out companies that might clean their competitors’ content, thus allowing their rivals to compete in both the mature and family-friendly market segments simultaneously.

This letter comes as a new survey from Rasmussen Reports that found that the public by and large believes violent movies and video games make America a less safe place.

The Rasmussen survey, the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard noted, found more than half of Americans blame violent movies and video games for “making America a more hostile place.”

“That finding follows a report issued Monday by the Parents Television Council that said 61 percent of prime time shows aired during the recent sweeps week included violence,” Bedard wrote this week. “And 39 percent of 287 episodes included gun violence.”

The Parents Television Council study calls on Hollywood to drop its regular “underwriting [of] nightly dress rehearsals of gun violence on television.”

“In recent days, news outlets have reported that a number of corporations are severing ties with the NRA following the tragic events in Parkland, Florida,” Winter, the president of Parents Television Council, said in announcing the study that exposes widespread violence in Hollywood culture.

He also said:

We call on those same corporations, and, indeed, we call on all corporate advertisers to ensure their media dollars are not underwriting bloody gun violence on television. Corporations that eschew gun violence must not be hypocrites by sponsoring simulations of gun violence on television, especially during the hours when children are likely to be in the viewing audience.

The letter to Sessions from the top movement conservatives notes that Disney and Fox have been fighting filtering technology that parents can use to remove mature content like swear words and adult scenes from otherwise family-safe movies and shows, something for which they have received enormous support from the widely viewed as out of control Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that President Donald Trump just bashed the other day.

“Filtering technology allows parents to remove specific elements of mature content such as violence, strong language, or sexually inappropriate images and sounds from movies and TV shows they watch in private,” the conservatives wrote to Sessions, adding:

Disney’s (and Fox’s) continued efforts to drive the filtering industry out of business is a hot topic among family advocacy groups, whose members especially want to protect their children from messages encouraging sexual objectification. The Family Movie Act, enacted when DVDs were the prevailing private-viewing technology, escaped legal challenge until recently, when consumer preferences swung dramatically in favor of streamed content and away from the inconvenience and limitations of watching DVDs. At the urging of Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros., the federal courts in the 9th Circuit have now interpreted the Family Movie Act as providing no protection for streaming motion pictures filtered as requested by each viewer.

Instead of helping families get family-friendly content, the conservatives argue in the letter to Sessions, Hollywood has been trying to foist its value system onto the rest of America.

“The studios are instead trying to push Hollywood values into the homes of middle America,” the conservatives write. “In doing so, they have ignored alarms raised by groups such as the Parents Television Council, whose research has shown that the major streaming platforms (such as Amazon, Google, and Netflix) are unsafe for children and lack adequate parental controls. Importantly, Disney’s and Fox’s efforts to block filtering have not been limited to the courts but have extended to blatant abuse of their monopoly power. They negotiated a protective bargaining agreement with the Directors Guild of America that obligates all studios subject to that agreement to prevent any modification of content–as occurs when a film is filtered. They have refused to enter into a streaming license agreement with any company that allows consumers to watch filtered content, even if that content is filtered at the consumer’s specific direction. And their contracts with the streaming services they do license obligate those services to prevent third parties—such as VidAngel, ClearPlay, and others—from filtering their content on modern streaming devices. They have thus unlawfully sought to prevent all competition from companies that filter streamed content. As you consider the proposed Disney acquisition of 21st Century Fox, we urge you to evaluate the extent to which these companies abide by the spirit and the intent of the Family Movie Act by allowing consumers to use services that inexpensively filter harmful and explicit content from streamed media content they purchase.”

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