Record #746

Record Type:
Press release
Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America
Reel 9
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Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (FCCCA)

Re FCCCA report on "The Public Relations of the Motion Picture Industry" -- indicates a "lack of confidence in its program for improving standards" because more was promised than Hays could deliver and because of MPPDA methods of paying honoraria -- though it accepts this is common practice and illustrative of "the vague and indefinite ethics of the business community'


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Long Description:

the FCCCA report. press reports 24 June 1931 of Milliken's resignation from the FCCCA Executive Committee -- also disclose that he had absented himself from its business from the time the Research Department began its inquiry.The FCCCA press release on the report -- 29 June 1931, reprints its conclusion -- and:"The churches as well as the industry are criticized in the report. The present situation, it says 'calls attention sharply to the lack of any adequate means of formulating and expressing the judgment of our Protestant churches so as to register effectively either approval or disapproval on the industry, its product and its policies. There has been hitherto no comprehensive, competent agency, convincingly disinterested in both administration and program, which could supply competent and helpful criticism and guidance to the industry."Conclusions -- part: "... the development of a public spirited policy within the industry is a slow process and fraught with difficulties of which the organization has not informed the public. To win acceptance for social standards and ethical trade practices by the producers and to keep refractory members from 'running out' on the organization has taxed the resources of its officers, who have nevertheless sought to conceal their household problems and to put up a bold front to the public. A franker acknowledgement of difficulties and a placing of responsibility for tardiness of achievement might have gained greater public support and might also have been an effectual disciplinary measure within the organization. As matters stand critics of the industry contend that there is a disappointing disparity between 'promise and fulfillment.'"It must be recognized that the task of introducing higher standards in motion pictures has been rendered much more difficult by the advent of sound. The relatively low standards of the vaudeville stage have long been a matter of common knowledge. Almost over night the industry found itself with a horde of undisciplined vaudeville actors and entertainers on its hands, many of them notoriously lacking in moral and esthetic [sic]. Furthermore, the motion picture industry is confronted with the task of evolving and maintaining standards in an atmosphere created by he current interest in 'freedom,' 'self-expression,' avoidance of 'repression,' and philistinism in art and literature. This atmosphere is constantly breathed by the patrons of a 'legitimate' stage that recognizes no standards and is hospitable to exhibitions which probably few motion picture producers would attempt to put on the screen even though they might have no personal scruples in the matter."... The plain fact, however, is that within the industry complaints by exhibitors against the block booking system on moral grounds are not numerous. We think the emphasis upon the technical procedure of distribution tends to distract attention from the main issue, which is to induce the industry to make better pictures and to cease making objectionable pictures. Whatever regulative measures may be desirable, there is no substitute for a more refined demand at the box office window."... The prime requisite for an adequate test of cooperative measures is a clearer understanding on the part of socially minded people of the function of the Hays organization as the producers and distributors themselves understand it. The frequent references to Mr. Hays as a 'czar' of the industry is misleading. We find no ground for such a claim to power on his behalf, yet the circumstances of the creation of Mr. Hays' office were such as to encourage it, and Mr. Hays' assurances that the industry 'stands at attention' to do the will of disinterested public groups, suggest some extraordinary power on his part. Thus, it has come about that the critics of the industry have tended to draw one of two inferences: either the organization is impotent to do what Mr. Hays and his associates would like to accomplish or it is a 'smoke-screen' to deceive the public and cover purposes of a narrowly selfish nature."The fact seems to be that the producers and distributors never intended to delegate to Mr. Hays arbitrary power but that they have looked to him and to his organization to negotiate, so to speak, with an insistent public opinion in a way to accommodate the industry to inevitable changes in standards with the least possible loss to a group of profit-making enterprises. This is not to say that they were uninterested in standards, but they were conducting a business, and they probably acted in accord with prevailing policies among business enterprises. We believe that a full understanding of his limited powers and of the difficulties that have constantly attended the efforts of his organization in the field of standards would have done much to simplify the task of Mr. Hays and to allay suspicion concerning his organization. ... It may even be argued that the chief significance of the facts here disclosed is in calling attention to the vague and indefinite ethics of the business community."... The opinion is widespread that the motion picture industry should be regulated in the public interest. Whatever may be the issue of efforts now being made to establish public regulation of the industry -- and the scope of this study has not been such as to warrant a recommendation on that point -- it must be patent that voluntary cooperative efforts toward social betterment, wisely conceived and well directed, are capable of accomplishing something which the imposition of force can never accomplish. Experience with the regulation of business and industry points to the desirability of promoting self regulation to the utmost. It is thus that the ethics of group relationships are evolved."But there has been no adequate test of the procedures set up by the Hays organization to improve standards because the essential basis -- confidence -- has been lacking. The discontinuance of the Committee on Public Relations (CPR), as this report shows, was accompanied by, if it did not result directly form, defections on the part of important and representative members who were concerned about policies. If the Hays organization is going to serve either the industry or the public in an acceptable way it must keep the public more fully advised of its purposes, methods and problems. Only frank and ingenuous statements must be made as to the organization's purposes and accomplishments. It is not sufficient that policies and procedures be honest in purpose: they must be convincingly honest in execution.

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