Like other big buyouts before it, the purchase this week of the Hollywood studio MCA Inc. by a Japanese firm is raising a fresh wave of concern about America's ability to control its own economic destiny.
Up to a point, it's hard to object to this coup by Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. despite the size of the $6.6 billion deal, the biggest-ever Japanese takeover of an American firm.After all, the Japanese are merely doing in America what American firms have done around the world for many years. If the United States starts slamming the door in the face of foreign buyers, American buyers can expect similar treatment when they go shopping for foreign firms.
Besides, if the American economy is to keep growing, it can use plenty of foreign investment, especially during a recession.
Even so, there are special reasons for taking a close look at the Matsushita-MCA deal when it comes before the Federal Communications Commission and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
One disturbing aspect of the deal involves a blot on Matsushita's record. This firm was among the Japanese manufacturers cited in 1984 for selling TV sets at a loss in the United States in an effort to gain a market share here even though such "dumping," as the practice is called, violates U.S. laws. Matsushita also has been accused by American firms of selling cellular telephones below cost. Let's make sure U.S. firms are sold to responsible corporate neighbors, not international robber barons.
Another potential problem involves the fact that the Matsushita-MCA deal means that four of Hollywood's seven major film and television studios are now controlled by foreign interests. Could this mean that some of the communications media can be expected to back away from programming critical of the Japanese even when criticism is warranted?
Still another possible difficulty involves the fate of proposed new U.S. standards for high-definition television. These standards will affect everything from the cameras and editing equipment used to make movies and TV programs to the wiring and microchips inside the next generation of TV sets. Americans, seeking to encourage home-grown manufacturing, have been fighting the adoption of Japanese standards for high-definition TV. But it may be hard to continue that fight as foreign owners command a growing share of the American TV industry.
The challenge now for Washington is to judge the Matshushita-MCA deal on its own merits without getting paranoid about foreign buyouts in general.