Popular culture has become one of America's biggest exports. Every year the U.S. sells more than $60 billion worth of music, books, movies, television programs and computer software to consumers abroad. And this estimate does not even include the revenues made by illegal copying and other forms of piracy. In Europe or Canada, one need only flick on the television, buy a compact disc or browse the entertainment section of a newspaper to see the ubiquity of American culture.
Over the past few decades many governments around the world have viewed this trend with alarm. Fearing the loss of their national idioms and folkways, France, South Korea, Australia, Canada and other countries have adopted policies to protect their producers of music, books, magazines, films and television shows. Some of the most effective techniques for preserving cultural diversity involve quotas that limit the number of U.S.-produced films and programs that can be shown on television. In 1989 the European Union issued its Television Without Frontiers directive, which required member states to reserve, "where practicable," most of their television schedules for European programming. Some E.U. states go even further: in France, for example, at least 60 percent of broadcast time must be European programming, and 40 percent must be French. In Australia, at least 55 percent of the schedule from 6 a.M. to midnight is set aside for Australian shows and films. In South Korea, foreign programming is limited to no more than 20 percent of over-the-air broadcasts (television signals transmitted by antennas rather than by cable). The Canadian government reserves 60 percent of over-the-air broadcast time for Canadian programming.