AMERICA WATCH : Bulging Portfolio

The prospect that MCA Inc., a giant U.S. entertainment company, might someday have Japanese owners is troubling not only because it looks to some people as if yet another slice of Americana--along with Rockefeller Center, Columbia Pictures and soon, Pebble Beach--might be added to Japan's portfolio.

The real worry about Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s move is that it illustrates a major weakness in U.S. business: We have given up too much of our manufacturing capability.

By virtually abandoning the production of consumer electronics, no U.S. company is in a position to compete with the strategy reflected in Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s interest in MCA.

The Japanese firm, one of the world's largest consumer electronics companies, is holding talks with MCA, whose vast film and TV library includes "Field of Dreams," "Jaws," "E.T." and "Murder, She Wrote." The programming would give Matsushita something to show on its new generation of high definition TVs, thus enabling the company to own a whole entertainment package--"hardware" as well as "software." Sony had the same idea when it bought Columbia Pictures last year.

It's ironic how the Japanese have stolen a page from America's book. Way back when, U.S. electronics pioneer RCA developed radio and then founded National Broadcasting Co. network. Today, Zenith Electronics is the only American company manufacturing TVs. It is pursuing high definition TV, too, but lacks programming resources. It's an increasingly familiar story.

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