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MPAA’s Chris Dodd Opens Door to Changing Studio Lobby ‘Completely’

New York Times report says Sony considered leaving the lobby following hack attack

Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Christopher J. Dodd said he is open to sweeping change at the organization, according to a New York Times report on Thursday.

Asked about the possibility of change at the MPAA, Dodd told The Times: “I’m for that, completely.” The conversation took place Wednesday while Dodd was on his way to Los Angeles for a meeting with the studio chiefs who make up the Washington-based lobby to discuss proposals for change.

Those changes could include a reduction in membership fees (the studios are currently asked to pay over $20 million each year), selling or redeveloping the MPAA home offices (currently in Washington, D.C.) and also a possible expansion in membership toward the television and digital content realms.

To the last point, Dodd told The Times he had “talked with a lot of people” in recent years about expanded membership.

His meeting with the studio chiefs comes after Sony CEO Michael Lynton reportedly complained about MPAA policies in January, chastising the organization’s lack of meaningful action in the wake of the Sony hack. The Times said Lynton was stung by the lack of support the company received and had considered withdrawing Sony’s MPAA membership before finally reconsidering in mid-January.

Dodd did not discuss Sony’s near exit with The Times and had only nice things to say about Lynton: “He’s there. I’m glad he’s there. I think he’s handled this well.”

Previously Dodd has expressed regret over his and his organization’s response to the hack. “This was an attack on free speech and private property and as the head of the MPAA, I should have been more vocal,” he said in mid-January.

Another knock against the MPAA is its reluctance so far to take a firm position on net neutrality proposals before the Federal Communications Commission. As The Times points out, MPAA members like Universal — owned by Comcast, a major broadband provider — might have different net neutrality inclinations than a company like Disney, which doesn’t own any Internet service providers.

Lynton didn’t comment to the Times about any tensions between Sony and other studios, nor did he speak to the future of the MPAA. But the Times reports over a dozen industry insiders have confirmed a debate is raging behind the scenes, which will likely result in at least some changes.

Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara was among those who said he welcomes the discussion. “Now is as good a time as any,” he told the Times. “We haven’t, as an industry, evolved fast enough.”

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