What's Happening Mr. Silver; Reaction To Magazine Show; 116a
What's happening Mr. Silver has been seen at this time for about 16 weeks.
Today we're going to talk about what in fact has happened especially to last week's program.
I'm Howard Spargo of WGBH is unit one.
We're in the Boston studio where what's happening Mr. Silver has originated from the start. Joining me are Fred Barnes ik who is produced and directed the programs. Michael Reiss who is responsible for deciding whether WGBH will continue this over series.
Robert Smith program manager of W e in Washington who has scheduled the series for simultaneous broadcast in Washington. And of course David Silver himself Michael would you like to begin. Yes David I'd like to know how you feel now about your performance last week. Well that's a direct quote.
I like the show when I saw it retake when I saw it replayed. I liked it a lot mainly because it was an experiment and I think experiments never actually succeed totally.
But I like the pacing of the show.
I like the way I like what happened.
I think naturally because of the kind of environment we gave it which was free and scripted it had a risk element all the time. But I think on the whole I stand by it as a show which had a bit of guts and said a lot of things which I think a lot of people wanted to hear.
On the other hand I thought it was very funny shit too. It was a lot of funny elements in it. There were mistakes and but you know what makes mistakes all the time especially in an you know an experimental kind of situation and I think that was one of our you know moderately experimental shows.
We've done shows which were much more kind of phrase way out on that one. But on the whole that gave us all a bit of freedom and we enjoyed it and I think we said some things that or at least I said some things which I'm glad about Fred had to do.
Well I think that as an experiment I have to go with David.
I think this is something we have to try. I think that for a long time a great deal of conversation is taking place amongst us to do a kind of magazine show. Our title what's happening makes all kinds of demands on us. And one of the finances to get a whole range of material sometimes unrelated to each other and put it into some kind of format to present we're naturally moving more and more towards this kind of magazine presentation.
As we move towards that magazine presentation we found that we started to include all kinds of things which range from something very serious.
Professor sends straightforward kind of pitch for draft resistance to a kind of extreme view of a presidential candidate that we've had two other candidates on the show and I'm sure some people regard both Dick Gregory and we have a lot of kind of radical presidential candidates.
When we had gathered all our material in this experiment we said the one thing that was really missing now was a kind of center of central core.
And we went that step further which was basically to allow an atmosphere in the studio of uncontrolled auction or maybe election coverage material and inside that we then we ran into some serious problems.
From my own standpoint I think basically that.
When we when we finish with one of our prerecorded skits or pieces we came back with sometimes with some rather pointless but maybe sometimes humorous at least to us elements and I think we might have if we had again aired this as a rough cut and had the chance to go back and I think we could have said some rather meaningful things after each of these points.
However in this in this state of an experiment I feel that it was essential that we tried this.
And as far as I'm concerned I really don't find the format that great a solution to what we're after.
I must confess that the questions of artistic success or failure of up to the show are glass points to me just now specifically for attitudes that were set or displayed on a particular day that I asked you how you felt about your performance.
I was probably in fact I was certainly less interested in whether or not you thought the show as a whole had good pacing and so forth. But whether you had any positive or negative feelings about your own statements your own personal performance on camera.
Well you see to answer the question I have to go back a bit.
I'm not American. My whole background is involved in an English thing in English television thing I've been watching English television and listening to English people all my life.
Perhaps this show of all shows brought to me an awareness the first time that things are very different in England for quite a long time. Probably say five or six years. Television shows have been experimenting and often succeeding with a much more complex attitude towards material.
And I think it's shown in this country or from what I've gathered serious and non-serious material can come together.
The host The participants on the show can express a lot more of their own real personality than they do here.
And this doesn't offend I think the British public as much as it might offend Americans but I'm not saying that one is right or wrong but this is the kind of thing that I've been used to. People like David Frost have brought a whole new perspective on television presentation and the sense that they feel that they can say what they actually do believe than the usual kind of news and usually they get away with it because if someone doesn't like it they can come back.
If someone doesn't like it OK the critics will put it in the papers.
Police the the man goes out there and does it.
Now I'm looking back at the time a lot of things I said which which weren't terribly profound. Lots of funny things but my own sort of feeling my own when I watch myself you know I thought well that's near is what I feel I should be like. There's no frenetic.
It was a little less controlled. I think television needs more of this.
I really do.
I think television is a little more honest.
And sometimes when you're being honest the word or the dichotomy responsible irresponsible takes on a new meaning. Sometimes I think one has to take a risk. I think in this state when we're in this stage in this country we're just in the western world if you like.
I think people have to be a lot more honest on television. They have to be a lot more direct. I'm not saying we should do this every week but I think a man who's on a television show you might say it's irresponsible I might turn around and say that is probably more responsible for him show his real feelings to show his real meat if you like.
But that wasn't a representative me no.
But the worse some things on it which were representative of my feelings I draw no distinctions that between the extent to which you express yourself personally on camera and extent to which you do so Prague's him friends.
I think there is obviously a difference because one isn't in private with friends environments is different and it affects you differently. But on the other hand I think one shouldn't divide the two so totally There is no relationship between the two the question of swearing on camera or swearing I don't know whether I swore last week.
But why shouldn't we use these words on television I mean what what what's wrong with it really. We use them in private life we do use them in private life with the cast time when he swore you know kind of time was it was a first man Religious where until he swore on the David Frost show about three years ago it was a big outrage because a lot of trouble people wrote him. But eventually after those two or three years there are programs on BBC television that a lot freer because of that one I think possibly time did effect a kind of revolution in television.
He kind of exploded.
He said Well why shouldn't we do these things not just use the four letter words but to you know talk about real life as it's lived and to try to give an impression of real life is lived in it and as it's taught conversation as it really is and known the visioning and people get away with a lot more and it seems to be you know more excitement and more meta more reality behind the camera. And there was five years ago right. Are you troubled at all if people take offense I think of only passing interest on merit. Question being is this Waring so important a revolution to carry through television that it's worth the real offense it might cause people would be trouble swimming in itself. It isn't to make a big fuss on the on this side of the question is just as melodramatic and silly as to make a big fuss on the other side as on the other side of the question and I think there are related things which one has to try and fight for in the mass media and all the talk of the matter to go onto those actually numbers of individually objectionable words in a program probably less significant for those who might have had some second thoughts in the ways and in a way they were employed for the kinds of thoughts that were behind them which included some personal attacks on people who were not present or attacks and whole groups that were not put forward any reasons or evidence or even with any apparent thoughtfulness.
Is this a kind of freedom kind of honesty you think as a place to.
Yes I do. Well then is it really important if if if we say that media can be used this way ought to be used this way for this sort of honest expression of one's private personality.
This analogy that himself be worthy of consideration of course. I mean you would accept that if one thing the medium can do is to let loose people who have particularly insightful or sensitive things to say an eloquent way of saying them that whoever's in the troll's medium should choose very selectively. Who gets that access. Because there probably are distinctions that can be made between people who are worth listening to.
Given free access and those who aren't particularly interesting or consequential publishing this will actually be then who is worth listening to.
Well that's another suggestion which I can make about myself we've done 16 shows on that one last week was just one of 16. I think we have said some interesting things there was a lot of worthwhile things but ultimately the choice kind of in my mind I can't I can't really be terribly objective about what we're trying to do but. We wouldn't have such a fury about this I'm sure if some of the views that were expressed were expressed on the other side on the planet Buckley often offends me it offends me some some want to see a man he didn't so much mean by the other side.
I mean politically yes because there are many of us live you can undergo any kind of shit that had nothing to do with politics. Can you be. Well there's a lot more specific it was a devastating attack on a public entertainment figures an example. Well what do you want me to say about the film to say that well when I was let's say let's say that a good number of people there found that gratuitously insulting. Now is that a good many found to that it was perhaps telling it like it is.
Yes and you fear that your credentials and your experience are sufficient with enough consideration so that given regular access to television out to the community it's a fit thing for attack for you to be making and selling weapons.
I don't think I can make that judgment about myself if other people to fish n number of other people feel that I haven't got the right to make these comments. Let him kick me off I mean if we want to polarize it like that.
You know get rid of me because then I am worthless if they think so in their eyes is there media in any case under restraining order not to be self imposed there to be a post by others you'll accept others.
What restraints others will impose but you won't deny guys you won't recognize that you might impose some of your own restraints and of course want to impose restraints all the time but I don't I'm not saying that other people shouldn't comment and perhaps you know tell you where to move away or not. I think that's that's reasonable and one has to accept that of course especially in the mass media.
What restraints did you accept self-imposed or otherwise. Last week for example what things might you have done that you didn't do.
Oh I would very much like to have gone into the Maharishi in a much more positive way than I could the reason for this was because we lost the audio on the Maharishi this was no fault of our own.
We went I'm kind of restraints no not production of strengths or limitations but no human restraints on what I said.
You know instead of behaving like you know you're being more positive what would I say that I didn't say overstrain when I said well let me get back to the core question a question is recognizing as you have that other people will have to impose selections of restraints on what is said. Who gets the cameras to say it. I'm asking would you in turn feel that you have certain restraints you impose on yourself given your background your stature your experience or your credentials. Yes or other and I'm asking taking example last week show what restraints did you impose on yourself there.
I would have liked the moment always to said more about the Vietnam War which I think is a central thing of our experience the central issue of our experience are the most important thing that I didn't and I haven't been on any of the shows because I feel that we can get we can make a point through indirect Meanwhile you're going to have professors since coming for you I don't much want to go much further.
That was an endorsement Michel I said I agreed with him as a human being and I'm sure a lot of people about watching at home said that's not I agree with both of you where I grew I disagree with both of you. I don't think it takes much much action on their part to adjust to that particular situation. I would have liked to sit a lot more about Vietnam but I don't at this time feel that it's my place to do it and in that sense I'd like to you did not like to place my opinion but I did but I don't particularly to go to great detail about it because there are other people doing that.
I think I did impose restraint with the course of a lot more about how to do it in front of what could have been was a time that kept you from saying no it was it was a person restraint that was particular to not do the format of the show format and I think that you know what I'm not as I'm saying within the production limitations what restraints by our imposed because you know there is an attitude that you bring to the information that you're going to because of the pressure because of the format and because of how you do it and I think when I want to make sure that this point is made clearly to and that is that that David was performing a function not only as an individual who was trying to say something but also as an interlocutor for the former I was Dave and I had rehearsed in the afternoon and the kind of presentation of material that we had was on satisfactory to me and I think we found that maybe the one of the things that would give it a certain amount vitality was to make David mad as a performer. In other words as a presentation of his personality for that particular kind of show that's a disparate thing we needed the strong core and the other he wasn't acting the part he knows he was what he was being himself but imposed upon him was the attitude that I am a moderator which has to produce a certain kind of a fact and one of the ways I can produce this effect is by being mad and this is what we're going to do and we're going to put out a line you know dissuade it which in its overall context was hope to show the whole things will be more softer.
You think it would have worked better if you'd been more clearly a put on. Yeah very much so. Well yeah but I suppose Let me let me get back in for a minute.
Not in the political area but otherwise. Did you observe. Or would you observe in a similar situation self-imposed just right. The kind of language they use those sorts of attacks that might or might not be leveled against people or groups the opinions you might choose to respect and those you might choose to discard.
So first of all look what's happening. I take a careful look at what's happening in the media generally and see you know what is being said by which side of what time how much is being said and therefore what sort of general kinds of a kind of freedom of expression it is that I represent you know my age puts me in a certain category.
Obviously my opinions are very similar to you know many other people my own age. I am a university instructor I'm in touch with students and people I happen to agree with lots of what's going on. I want to express that I want to express that I'm not you know I want to Cronkite I'm not a David Susskind I'm none of those people. I'm David Silver. And I'm I have a certain point of view and I don't want to renege on that I don't want people to think that I'm just a new to out there a new chair out there that's like all the other neuters. No I'm not. And you know I want to present if you like something someone of the underground view. I'm not saying that I'm a member of the underground I don't choose to put myself in any category but I sympathize with a lot of things they're doing. I think they need an outlet because I think they're important doing important things in the arts.
Do you think eating it now doing the same thing as needing an endorsement.
I don't really understand you question Jimmy Well obviously the show has presented an outlet for these kinds of things for some weeks quite different to say that the show by that explicitly begins indorsing what it selects.
We've indorsed pretty well for 16 weeks I think it's just the way in which we've done it we don't know when we've done another way our methods of editing cutting presenting filming interviewing a pretty we'll put it down the line what with what we think. Often this is happened often this wasn't just the first time we use different methods to get not totally stated No not totally stopped.
You know what I mean in other words we we try to allow the evidence which is always by nature has to be selected by a set of people and I mean just in the selection effect you create an attitude towards in the chair but it almost every other show we have never come out and put it right on the line.
Bob is a man who broadcasts silver in Washington. What's your response to that.
Well as a program director My job is to act in trust for an audience of up to four million people and I'm less interested in what one or two individuals or a producer or performer feel they want to say than I am what any specific audience either small or large wants needs. I want to have likes and for the record I'd like to hear from the producer and from the performer and description of the audience they feel they're reaching and what function they think they're performing for it this may have been discussed internally in your own development of the program. But we in Washington take this a little differently than perhaps it is taken in in the city word originates. We don't have quite the commitment to it that you have here.
I'd like to hear something about that commitment from both of you perhaps far as the audience is concerned this is probably one of each of these biggest biggest problems. Our first attitude when we first developed the show was very definitely aimed at something called 18 25. This was the summer when the Now Generation was a rather important phrase. By nature when we took on the phrase and we took the posts of a writer who was in that age bracket that we decided that this was there was there was a basic commitment to that age group. However as we have progressed the age of our audience has become less and less important as a matter of fact the response that we receive and to be a number of ministers and housewives except for a rather older group of people now this may be true because of the hour of this broadcast this may be another factor too. I know a lot of the high school kids who did watch it during the summer do not watch it now because of the lateness of the hour. So let me just simply say that from the response we have been getting back our our age group has expanded now the kind of people that they are very mostly I would think that they they represented in the Boston area and this is the only one we really had any kind of response. A selected group of people who who have been interested in watching the other material that's on channel 2 and have become interested in the show because of their exposure to Channel 2 IDEs. We haven't found a fantastic new array of people who had not watched Channel 2 before tuning into the show at least in my own experience so far.
I think that in many ways they have a tendency to be more vocal about their likes or dislikes on our show than they do about many of the other things that we broadcast on Trump to you thinks this this show is it is going over 16 weeks but particularly last Wednesday night represents what your select audience would itself produce for itself in any way that I can answer. Is it really representative of what this this target audience you picked out identifies itself with.
The 18 to 25 group what portion of the 18 to 25 group are the 18 to 35 with the under 30 feeling based in our theory of production might get at this a bit more and that is that where we're concerned about what's taking place now what is taking place that is of interest to this age group has a tendency to you know put this out on the air. We visit today what they call a head shop basically a place where they sell. Psychedelic things for the mind for the mind such as. There are quite a few of them in the Boston area right now and a lot of people have never been inside.
I've never been so I'm fascinated I found that one of the most interesting segments in the in the in the show that was played last week that I guess my question runs more to style in form although I do have some questions about some of the content. Let me say that I felt in trying to represent that particular part of the audience that the way you went about the it's not really a parody on a news program but where you went about your style of news program seemed to be more like the sort of thing we'd get on skipping late in the summer boys camp. The sophistication with which it was carried out in conversations with several of my people they thought that the target audience that you've identified would find the style in which you carry this out is considerably below their own their own level of sophistication. It wasn't really that clever.
So this is an artistic judgement not running a course in literary agreement what you mean by sophistication. Obviously you have a very different definition from the well just tell me what you mean.
I think that I think that in the fashion in which you carried out the interplay between yourself and your and your straight man sitting next to you you under rated the sophistication of your now generation audience.
It just really in our minds and I'm talking now about style and form wasn't very clever.
That's one judgment. My other concern is how you how you feel both the producer and the performer about your responsibility to allow offense or not to offend the rest of those people outside of the now generation who may also be watching public television.
In my judgment there were a number of statements made usually side remarks coming out or going into a segment. Seldom a major part of the communication that would be offensive to most of the people in the audience. Indeed we found this to be the case and some of the mail in the coming that came back to the station. Television tends to convey status on whatever it presents. You have far greater status for being on the tube than you have perhaps for being one of 100 professors on a university campus. Your comment about LSD is something that might not be too harmful and correct me if I misquote you is carried with the status of television to perhaps a great many young people. Who might say see he said that it must be OK. Now all of our research in mass communications indicates that when it gets printed on the page or appears on television or on radio. Younger people will attend tend to tend to take it as true and valid.
I would sever these comments I think I would I would disagree with you there I don't think you know I think we're getting back into the argument of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and dirty films and whatever you want to say about the influence and I don't think people rush out and drop acid because I mentioned in this thread I think they're more likely to be affected by the number of programmes on commercial television connected with violence and sex and insensitivity in general I agree with you can agree with you completely on it David but that's no reason for us taking any liberties that our children enjoy a few We should not as a matter of fact we're supposed to be an alternative service to much of this violence surely but I do think that. That particular remark but I was was was doing something else it was an attempt. Mainly I was implying that perhaps. So I disappear again about priorities and the connect the connection with with the Korean crisis and the UN generally and the ineptitude with which a Security Council carries on its job. And yet the the way in which they can knuckle under and get down very quickly to problems like amnesty which don't seem to me to be terribly pressing. I don't think so not compared with world problems you know. I don't think honesty is a worldwide crisis.
The number of people like crisis in the families of those who have youngsters who are taking so is growing so is growing up a lot of other things Wright said about growing up in a lot of other things about things they should see perhaps they shouldn't see any of Stan VanDerBeek films.
Perhaps I shouldn't read any or any of them because the count you know the Grove Press books president of course raises another point as to when youngsters when people come in contact with communication forms when they're ready for them when they're not ready for it.
We don't send 30 which is which is quite lame I think from what I gather from people I've met that our audience isn't usually very young I think I think on the whole it's so much older than we anticipated in fact.
David you are a public figure and this station has to take some knowledge of that fact. You are on every week figure in the press pictures potations statements feature articles usually secret usually misquoted speaking engagements. Do you think that this adds any further responsibility to the weight of your comments in a viewer and how do you just taking into context took into account the context of the whole series.
We have I think attempted on the whole to present our picture of any particular thing that we were going for in such a way as to give the audience a lot of information quickly a style to identify with the style to enjoy. And in the main my participation has been as a kind of catalyst as a kind of person who can handle this sort of put of perspective who can put himself in the middle of this particular vision or perception and be comfortable that's what I see as my responsibility. On the question of last week's show whenever we said that one thing the Fed and I would always say is that that could not happen each week.
We don't plan it as happened each week I was a further experiment in a series of issues scription of your role as utterly different and totally leaves out the use of television for making pronouncements on issues and other people's opinions doesn't your authority. I don't think it does. Or is that actually about giving perspective. When you read a story that say as you did in that program as I mentioned that an agency of the United Nations has taken some sort of international collective action of the regulation of our state. Does your vision of your role as getting perspective mean that what you can do is to dismiss that story. That's that's the function.
Dismissed that ticket doesn't mean because it doesn't really mean if I dismiss that story then that the audience who knew automatically dismiss it on we only sort of referring to them as kind of ultimatums I mean if I dismiss it is it any reason is there any reason why they should.
I read there is a good that's a good point I think Bob has has raised his view that the more you are exposed on television the more you're presented as a person his own show factor. You know destruction facility apparently at your disposal the more you are treated as someone who is quotable the more you might well influence health matters ideas of people in a fairly careless cavalier way.
Insults have their place and the stations broadcast a number of gratuitous insults maybe something else personal attacks have great serious point politics and life or styles but cavalier personal attacks for the sake of vanity are getting it right trying to get at is however careless a person might find himself to be in private conversation with friends where his comments can be taken with a grain of salt. So if he shows the same latitude on the air. As a public figure who regularly appears States's mine for censorship that does infuse into into that state much greater weight. It is it is the seizing of public communications facility for fairly trivial purpose that might have great effect I think that many respects some of the statements that were uttered on the program were a kind of slap in the face to many of the people who supported not only the station but the very effort that you've been involved with this experiment of weekly series. Because not that these things were more offensive because in touching raw nerves a concern or anxiety because they were so gratuitously offensive in their way of insulting or I think I talked to I think that's a very melodramatic way of looking at it Michael I don't I don't think you know it I don't think it made that big a deal.
One of 16 issues or maybe one program that a great group of people will see once and only a moron like you are doing the 16 programs and you see them as part of the stream. There are many people out there who will see it for the first time and who will who will form an opinion on the basis of that one present that's true.
It's of more importance to me is not the current one occurrence but really the attitudes of those involved that might make possible frequent recurring as we've talked about the nature of experimentation and we talk of an age of experimental programming.
And I'd like to ask both of you Mike and you Bob how far how far this should go how far as you as program managers are willing to let an experiment go to take shape and form and experiment by its nature is a very undefined thing.
We're not only experimenting with a program here where we're experimenting with a very large and undefinable audience of people who have their own value systems and their own tastes and their own problems within their own homes about what is acceptable and what is not.
And quite frankly I accept myself as a person operating in trust for these people. I don't expect to always stay within the boundaries we expect to push the boundaries of communication and of content of value systems and everything else. We don't expect to ignore them. He's been a breeze which may be established right now this month in 168 in which may be quite different in 1069 I expect them to be what you do.
You don't have any qualms about putting their value systems in conflict but in your programming do that.
No I'd no not when it's done responsibly.
One is when we got to take some pride in the way we went about it. I've watched a number of the silver programs as they've come to us. In Washington where we don't know what's going to happen in the next moment we have a responsibility down there for is to keep a hand on the switch to pull something off the air or perhaps we don't have the knowledge of what you're going to do that you have in the studio back here when it when it's a live program. It may be that when we're really going to push at the boundaries of what we might describe as acceptable public taste and that's an awfully difficult thing to describe I know it will vary with your age groups that we have to do some experimenting and some testing off the year before we go on the air I'm not quite sure I want to take all of my audience into that experiment with me and subject them to something that would be a viable violation of their taste.
Can I say something. I go I agree entirely with that. I just wonder what in fact pushes the boundaries it is obviously the programming that change is about is of taste and so I do agree that we should try much more off there.
Fortunately we haven't had the time or we you know are into a 26 week series to do one of the shows in a week is one hell of a job it really is. And we have time to show it to ourselves to show it to other people to shout run run run run and then say this is what is going to satisfy all those requirements this week.
I think you know look I'm quite aware of that problem and one of the things that occurred to me is maybe either you have to magnify the staff considerably. In order to have more people testing out more things among themselves before you try them or us you have to do fewer programs which would be a shame because part of the charm of this is that it is regular and every week I understand its programming. But there were a number of items in the program last week and there were some in previous programs I've seen which I think probably overstepped the boundaries I would consider for my audience. My problem is that you're using us too.
It seems like another let me say in answer to your question about about a two term experiment that I think there's a tremendous latitude.
What is really an important question experiment is the question I just don't think it's very experimental to consult people closely I'm sure that's fairly easy you can certainly test what the reaction is but what does that have to do with any kind of broadening of artistic cities or possibilities for expression. I did not insult people for 55 minutes Mike and I think you're making a bigger deal out of this and in fact once the show had many many other ingredients if one cannot inject different elements into one series than a whole series is really different. If we can experiment with levels we cans with genres with we're finished. And I'm sorry I really don't think that share with the fans.
Then when you're talking about two degrees the context in which this experimental material is used we have broadcast obscenities or GBH surnamed with great point and great integration with the station became local costs a matter of national Commons in November with the broadcast of Professor elections encounter with Leary we were the only one of a hundred twenty stations across the country the broadcast programme and on expurgated form. It contained a usage that was probably far more striking than any of the careless words you may have injected into last week's show but the important thing was that it had some point accomplish something it might might as well work point Mike but as you noted it pushed back some boundaries and opened up television to a freer latitude of usage and expression is because it did so in a consequential way not a trivial way and I think that that makes all.
Can you with a Please may I come in here. I don't think it was consequential I know for a fact that in that particular show with the Lear 11 debate when that when the word happened and it happened after that a lot of very useful material was put by the side I know that I'm sure Dr. Levin would agree with me on this that too much was made of that particular word and not enough was made of what Timothy Leary said before and after and what Levin said himself and he himself was not very happy with what happened there and I mean what happened. What I think happened was that the tremendous furor it was was created over that particular word when outside people really I don't think without thought about that I really think people are hip it to this kind of thing and you're giving them credit I really do.
I don't think people are that worried out there as much worried out there as perhaps you are and I really think that in this particular case again the question of swearing the question of where that's where is really explored it too much more for questions of state and I would be perfectly willing to acknowledge that the community standards which we have to work with and to acknowledge that we're constantly in change and we may find that all of the broadcast airwaves have become absolutely purple with sanity in future years and should be granted a high level of poetic. Truth and power. I don't think however that it's part of our mission pushing back boundaries to to open to television cameras and microphones to a regular representative of the station and of our work. Who thinks that the next appropriate step is really to put forward personal opinions that have very little grounding behind them and might do damage to health matters. Constructive activities of the people who hear and see. It's a real question thing. David I want to put the point as you do that television ought to be put the excess of personalities who are free and honest in this thing through a question of whether you have the credentials and experience to be so honest and free with your statements on television as to cover the whole gamut of issues from war to drug use.
But as a Program Manager Mike don't you have the responsibility to make that decision even before David goes on the air.
I think this this program was not planned in isolation that's right and I don't and I don't it's going to try to escape. Moreover that sit in continues with every new show that goes on the air or is planned for the year which is why we're talking today.
So I just gave going to come back one of months.
And if I accept your premise that personalities are people you know who have a whole context of experience just people should have access to the airwaves with as much honest use of them for their reactions to issues to other people and their opinions as possible. Then when it comes down Tali talk question of choosing people who really are in themselves a whole reserves of insight and knowledge and perspective how do you make this judgment by who is this is this Edward P. Morgan this man Walter Cronkite would never get on the radio he has no give and that's in frogs whatever there's a comic is a great deal of difference.
It's great to talk to who is this man you know well I think I can see that he has very valid point here you speak for the station you speak for the network that's carrying you are the anchor man to write your program out it was a guest on the station that said you're not you're not even going to get even for a right.
Is it is it is it so difficult for you to put at the end of the show like others and others done other networks do this about you know this show is not. David the question is if we if we want to disavow David whether we should have anything to do with him in the first place this is not to disavow this is simply a question of putting a show in a particular context doesn't show it saying that one show maybe represents of the station another one isn't of the rivers into the station but it isn't representative station why should we do it.
Let's that's what your question is whether it's representative of a part of the spectrum of the station as you as you as a program director define it and I like that the basis for this program and I'd like to see it continue like to see it be experimental. But I'd like to see it be experimental within some boundaries you establish for yourself because you are on a public medium not in somebodies gameroom or not in a bar or not in a private meeting someplace.
Fine but as long as that doesn't mean that one creates out of the show a slick polished neutral event weekly event like that's not the issue and hasn't been for now.
Well you know I don't I'm not saying that it is but you know I agree with Bob but I'm just saying OK surely there is a danger when we come actually out I think many of the things we're talking about have to do with courtesy.
I was curious for example know where you draw the line between allowing someone who differs from your point of view the benefit of a doubt and when last week's show with a film reviewer who actually disagreed with you on a particular film can be said Well that's your opinion I have mine. And yet after certain other spokesmen who rolled in to take you were made.
No such gracious gesture in allowing that they might have some grounds for their point of view instead you either dismissed the ridicule that now when you draw the line format to conform a lot to do with those for the differentiation for the particular one of then when I said that I didn't agree with on a recent review of hard won the war I got a you know a 15 second cue for the end of the show in fact for you know I like friend. What does the form of that show have to do with a lot of what was said.
Yeah you know I just like to say again that the format of the show and I think it every time we come back to we're talking about the interlocking.
It was the comments in in the Alps of the tour that were really questioning this with a lot of unrehearsed. Which we have never done before total off the cuff kind of one more person it was rehearsed up to a point however the LSD thing for example. Well I was down at the AP wire ripping off stuff as it was coming down and we were just flashing these things into David cold unrehearsed just read to see what would happen in this kind of context. That's where that particular statement came from so what we're really talking about now is a kind of unfiltered presentation. Now I agree that in 90 percent of our work if artists lection and intensification our selection and intensification come before it gets on the air. In other words we spend a great deal of time in thinking about the elements per se that will go into an individual show how they flow out onto the two is done in a kind of spontaneous group what's about you and I consider our control room is filled we invite a certain number of people to create a kind of performance atmosphere. We we handle B. Technicians both the switcher and the assistant director of the audio and the video man as artist we ask them to add and bring their own material to it as it goes out on the air. This is probably the most experimental feature of this whole production is the is the attitude that we take towards our material as it's flowing out. There was one show in which we had people just simply call out to us when they were bored in the control room which had an effect upon how it went out on to the year. It has its rough relationships to Andy Warhol and the whole theater of the park are a succession given all that.
If you have a program in which a key element is added live comment you know the airline well but last one this forms that's right in the budget but given that one then the test of whether or not you've achieved an experiment worth noting within with some kind of professional standard to it is whether the person who's given the role of making out a comment does it does so in some sort of effective professional interesting and memorable manner. What was memorable.
But one of the issues I think the key phrase here is this whole issue of freedom to experiment versus the restraint as program and just see it as being necessary.
You know how far it gets a cop out. I don't I don't think that's the issue. And I don't think there's anything experimental about the questions of elementary courtesies whether you give one man the respect of a benefit of adapt his opinion but not the next man.
Our if if there are no clear criteria in vote for dismissing discarding or ridiculing one man's opinion but accepting or graciously allowing another's then I think we're not talking about experiment at all. We're talking the courtesy we're talking about letting people who knew about who you have asked to say something and then have the chance to do so with the same framework the same privileges of of of setting as anybody else. I think that in a sense it's it's almost a matter of coincidence perhaps that what we're talking about occurred within the framework of a highly experimental television production. This is this very conversation could be raising the same questions if we were if we were to to slee insulting each other or swearing or just carelessly letting the thing fall apart and whether you invoke a perceived professional standard or a moral one or just one of social convention that's that's the issue. If you feel the entire series has gone in this direction which I don't think so although I must say I'm very curious as I have to be all along and as the audience I would imagine asked about the attitudes that lie behind the work of people who are involved in the show.
Do I think what one of the curate's I think what Mike and I are suggesting here is whether we can really trust these attitudes not to violate the sensitivities too far of our audience in the future. This is a concern and why I wanted to be a part of this discussion today. To make up my own mind in Washington as to whether the program ought to be carried there I'd like to see a program with the purpose and intent and some of the style that you've already developed continue. So I think you're probably reaching an audience that is reached by most of the rest of what we put on the air. The programming controlled by the over 30 crowd that is beyond salvation. I hear the making of which I'm a member thing in the USA but I'm concerned about whether we can really trust these attitudes not to violate sensitivities in the future.
You know like not it's not out of fear of violating sensitivities it's out of granting that there is something to them.
That community standards in large part can mean something that certain social conventions have a point. They tend to civilize exchange of views to develop respect among you rather than to destroy it. And these then are themselves a kind of framework within which programmes develop or within which conversation or ideas or political meetings or or the other what if it would have a segment of our society doesn't have the conventions are very identifiable so it doesn't have the conventions that we all know and love.
Right. Doesn't television have a responsibility to reflect that segment of the community only to abandon the connections it may have in order to in order become more a mirror than the next. I don't think so.
Would you agree with that I think.
I would agree with both of you I think.
I think indeed that television has a responsibility to reflect these conventions which quite frankly are taking a look at my story character as a mirror not a band not to a band I think we have to reflect them in with some sense of responsibility after all most of these people that we're talking about are on their way to settling into conventional conventional attitudes and systems and values anyway. The only thing that has changed. The only thing that has changed between the present under 30 group which was the original target audience and those who were that way 15 years ago are the verbs and something I would strongly disagree with and this and some of the customers and some of the freedom to and I would I would strongly disagree with you.
I think that the someone here 15 years ago well I've read the books you know and I did have parents I don't have places right now trying to get young men and this is a reflection of the fact that not everybody is going to grab the 5 0 9 to Westport read an anomaly if you're going to count things that we're reflecting you know and show what's happening you know that anything from Trafford systems to two to very very outspoken pop music is a reflection of a very very very important change and I don't subscribe to the fact that what's happening today is that much different from what was happening with the same group 15 years ago.
From my memory I say the verbs have changed the sounds have changed a little bit.
I don't think we have it. For all about the subject matter altogether the series talk about doing.
There have been some items I know well I do quarrel with some of the subject writer Yes I think and in general I think for I think you are right for example.
I really find no merit to whatever I do I perhaps you can eliminate this for me on the segment that I guess it was an A in a supermarket with a young boy knocking down his display you know this may have some slapstick appeal for teenagers but I find it difficult to identify with in my older years.
Maybe you can explain what merit that had in the program what marriage wasn't a big deal 20 seconds it was a bit of fun wasn't going to do it there.
I think I think what you're talking about and I really mean this quite seriously is that it didn't work. I think that's really what's right. It didn't work. Can a cameras doing the same kind of thing constantly every single day like the guy walks into his coffee cup squirts juice in his I mean can't Kerry's been doing this for years the problem was with this one we didn't work. If you think it would work before you rolled it in it was pretty pretty shot of course. You just don't know you see the selection that comes in you know something.
Yeah I just think that you know a person put into a position where he is where he is where his work has been confronted where he's put up to ridicule. It's something a Candid Camera has based the entire success of their series and that's exactly what that came from.
And we I was careful to try and show that we're really living here together in this one where perhaps the two children dancing seven times or five times during the program.
The loop film that you used didn't work with respect to Professor Zinn I don't think I would have allowed that to go on my air unanswered unchallenged. Not in the form in the style and the almost diatribe expression. I don't think I would have allowed that to go on if I had the choice to make ahead of time which apparently you did have in terms of cunt because because no one answered his. His remark right I don't think now I don't subscribe that everything has to be answered and balanced within a program. That's because I think I would disagree but I don't think that one should have gone unanswered within the program that was too strong.
I think I would and I'm not sure it's that fight again I think.
I think here the difference between the community from which the programs stand and one that is at a distance might make a difference. Professors in this is a person who's in the news day in and day out. He has rarely had a chance to present his case other than under questioning of a news film treatment. The opinion was or could have been if necessary and labeled as his has is and in fact it was billed as a guest editorial. It was it was an eloquent statement of a point of view which on its own terms. I don't think so long as it was identified and by no means. People presented in a misleading way.
I don't think it required within the program any sort of letter that is your opinion as you know Michael when any five program director is going to get you know as I had 10 opinions and I don't actually think the border was was it was it was David's killer endorsement and let me go into that because I think we're coming to the kind of kind of consideration that will really affect whether the program series can continue and that is whether David as a condition for future programs you are even willing to consider abiding by.
And understanding that the program is not to be your own personal mouthpiece but rather a vehicle of which you are one instrument a person who has certain questions to ask a lot of people as interests.
And there's a sense of discovery of finding out more about what a wider experience and exposure to canvas has to offer. And that and that if instead you really do see it as as a way of sort of seizing public airwaves then I don't think we I don't think we can continue.
It's really it's really a question of whether you will accept as a public figure on television certain of the sorts of courtesies conventions of restraint of respect for the opinions of other people which I would imagine would hold in a classroom as well as as on a television program.
That's really the producer's statement or question too that's right it's really more than more than days.
Well I'm not really because we do work together very much so that it isn't just just one and it could have caused it.
Let me just say for from my standpoint that if you mean by no opinion by constantly finding the pro and con to every possible situation you know I don't know. OK all right I just want to just want to say then I think yes very much definite our whole attitude behind the whole show has always been to present raw material in a way in which the audience can make up their own mind.
But it's selected rowin as I would have thought so too but would you say that's been that's been a continuing principle throughout the series you know you don't think it's been drifting from that to something much more sort to advocate so your guest this.
No I mean I think some of the talk shows are great.
I just want to say that when I arrived on the scene less than a year ago and the test summer Test series was produced broadcast if I were to of identified at that time any cue your charm that was that was there it was that it presented experience evidence and statements a panoply of things in a way that a lot of you were very much to participate in drawing his own conclusions and making up his own mind about how he was going to regard this or that quitting the show.
I think the drift of the series since then culminating last Wednesday night's program sort of belies that.
And that's what that's I think I think you're talking about two separate formats you're talking about an hour format in which we're able to hand off to handle a larger topic in more diverse kinds of ways. We're talking about a half hour show now which by nature we had to go one of two ways and that was either to to condense our hour long package into a half hour which we tried several times and failed miserably. We're going to take a subject or two out of an hour format and divide it where I don't think my running time has anything to do with whether or not your approach is one of preaching or want to be alone.
Just you know whether you like it would never preach I'm not preaching now whether you like it or not you are now a public figure.
You now represent the station WGBH. You also represent the other stations that are carrying the program because the audience doesn't make this discrimination that oh well this is Boston. And when you make an remark at the end of obviously had to get a statement that you totally agree the station is totally agree whether you like it or not even this is the way it's taken and you have to deal with this as the way it's taken not the way you'd like it to be. Then it's just kind if you take David Susskind you are using him as a representative of your station also. That's right that's right it is.
Well I find many of the things that he says and comes out as a part of the direction of the question is whether you know whether David Susskind is objectionable whether David Silver's Well I mean that's what we're talking about. Yes we know we know your thing already granted that stations that air programs regularly recurring person persons and all the rest have this destroys have this responsibility.
And so throwing the decision back last last question is in granting air time week after week to a certain person in a certain production team. Will I have the confidence with the station at the conference where the audience have the confidence that that person in that team will abide by certain agreed courtesies of respect for other people's opinions. I don't care in the use of language and things of this kind. That's a question I'm putting forth.
Yes surely happened last week.
Surely as long as you imagine it would happen the future you can expect that surely might as long as you also acknowledge the fact that we may disagree on certain things I mean that we may just simply disagree and if every time we disagree as a unit with you with the the bottom of the supervisors we and we we must think off.
But isn't that isn't any good either because it depends what we're disagreeing about for disagreeing privately a person about how about particular issues in public life. It's one thing at the stations for people disagreeing.
If we're disagreeing fundamentally about about about an understood set of conventions for civilized discourse of treatment of subjects and people on the air then I think that's a problem.
But we're not that we're never at a point of State says that things will change in attitudes will change and we will change with them obviously and that's our that's our job. We're mirroring what's happening and things are changing and we will change too but I don't and I'm not avoiding your question. I would assume the view was well you would have a trust.
Well but last week you see I was given evidence that it wasn't bad.
Well I think that you think it was violated I don't think it was violent it was by those you think so I think it's I think your fight to make more of it than it was really that then what we did I'm not climbing out of the question.
I think I think it's significant that we had this discussion.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- What's Happening Mr. Silver
- Reaction To Magazine Show
- Episode Number
- Producing Organization
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Contributing Organization
- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
- AAPB ID
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- Howard Spurgle of WGBH's Unit 1 moderates a panel with participants Fred Barzyk, Director and Producer of What's Happening Mr. Silver?, Michael Rice, Vice President and General Manager of WGBH, Robert Smith, Program Manager of WETA, Washington D.C., and David Silver, host of the show, over controversial remarks Silver made during his previous broadcast. Expectations over on-air courtesy, respect for differing opinions, and language discretion are discussed. Spurgle concludes the panel, which he describes as "a behind-the-scenes view of the nature of television program planning," before resolution is made. WGBH decided to continue to grant What's Happening Mr. Silver air-time after the panel, and the show was broadcast until 1969.
- This series experiments with new form and new ways of handling its subject matter by incorporating a youthful style and sense of concern. Series release date: 1967
- Asset type
- Film and Television
- No copyright statement in content.
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- Moving Image
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Host: Silver, David
Producer: Barzyk, Fred
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 21887 (WGBH Barcode)
Generation: Master: preservation
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “What's Happening Mr. Silver; Reaction To Magazine Show; 116a,” 1968-01-30, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-56n03749.
- MLA: “What's Happening Mr. Silver; Reaction To Magazine Show; 116a.” 1968-01-30. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-56n03749>.
- APA: What's Happening Mr. Silver; Reaction To Magazine Show; 116a. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-56n03749