Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is seeking to advance legislation that would ban the Pentagon from supporting Hollywood studios that censor their films for screening in China, or that otherwise cater to the Chinese Communist Party.
Cruz said the aim of his bill, called the “Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies” (SCRIPT) Act (pdf), is to cut off the influence that China’s Communist regime exerts on American perceptions through movies.
“This legislation is part of Sen. Cruz’s comprehensive push to combat China’s growing influence over what Americans see and hear, which includes legislation targeting information warfare from the Chinese Communist Party across higher education, sports, films, radio broadcasts, and more,” a press release announcing the initiative stated.
Hollywood studios often contract with the Department of Defense (DOD) to feature military assets like ships, tanks, and jets in their films. To maximize profit by gaining access to the lucrative Chinese film screening market, studios sometimes cave to demands by Chinese censors to portray the Communist regime in a favorable light or will avoid broaching sensitive topics like human rights violations.
By withholding taxpayer-funded military assets from studios that agree to such demands from Beijing, the Pentagon would be serving to constrain China’s efforts in what Cruz says amounts to information warfare waged against the United States.
“The Chinese Communist Party spends billions and billions of dollars to mislead Americans about China and shape what our citizens see, hear, and think,” the GOP senator said in the release. “All of these activities are part of China’s whole-of-state approach to amass more influence around the world through information warfare—and we need to put a stop to it.”
An example of Hollywood self-censorship to appease Chinese demands, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, was when MGM re-edited the movie Red Dawn to show North Koreans, as opposed to what was originally meant to be Chinese forces, as occupying America.
Cruz, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, framed the issue as Hollywood being “complicit in China’s censorship and propaganda in the name of bigger profits.”
He said his bill would specifically prohibit the DoD from providing assets to any film whose creators would refuse to promise not to censor it, as well to any movie co-produced with a Chinese company subject to Beijing censorship, or to a studio that has recently censored its films to gain access to China’s market.
“The SCRIPT Act will serve as a wake-up call by forcing Hollywood studios to choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China,” he said.
Cruz’ new initiative comes on the heels of his earlier proposal to amend existing federal communications legislation to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from propagandizing to Americans from radio stations in Mexico or Canada.
“China should not be able to set up shop in Mexico and blanket America with propaganda,” Cruz said in a statement.
“Every year, the CCP spends billions of dollars purchasing news outlets and waging information warfare to extend the reach of its propaganda and whitewash the unflattering and politically inconvenient truths about its totalitarian regime,” he said.
“We are seeing this play out right now as news outlets across the country parrot Chinese talking points about the coronavirus pandemic—a pandemic that could have prevented,” he added.