Ethic for broadcasting; Broadcaster of the art, part 1
The use of this invention this crazy power filicide that we have and this picture to the other end of it is fully as broad as the use of the printing press. And no one speaks of television as an invention which is being used by all kinds of institutions all kinds of groups of people which affects and is affected by virtually every sort of organization and level in society. I have always maintained strongly that a businessman in the television business is a man who knows that business. I think the trouble with television is it is not being run by business men who know the television business is being run by facilities men who don't know the television business. I think it would be better if we all devoted our time to trying to make every program on the air whatever it is a better one. If it's a Western make it a good western there's nothing wrong with a Western for relaxation. Lots of
people like westerns. Nothing whatsoever wrong with them. There is something wrong however with a bad western a cheap chancy tawdry Western. It is doubtful whether the present commercial matters of these media will live up to that responsibility. Unless the most valid and most powerful pressure not of the sensibility of the national intelligence is brought to bear against those voices belong to Dr Edward Rosenheim educator Sylvester Pak Weaver broadcaster advertiser David Brinkley news broadcaster and father William Lynch educator. With you. This is I think for broadcasting a series of 13 documentary radio programs compiled from interviews with men who make broadcasting their business. This series is produced under a grant from the National
Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters program to the broadcaster of the art park one. And now here is your host John Campos broadcasting means different things to different people. For the average listener it means news weather reports and entertainment which he picks up from a standard broadcasting station. The business man thinks of radio and television as a way of selling goods and services to the advertising man. These are one long succession of listener ratings to the student of public opinion radio and television are important as two of the four great mass media. The other two being the newspaper and the motion picture. The educator wishes to use radio and television to supplement the work of the classroom and to continue education beyond school years. The idealist believes that broadcasting offers a way of creating goodwill and understanding among nations the dictators demonstrated radio's effectiveness
Well this of course is a very very involved question. Let me try to put it this way. One of the most tired analogies I know is still one of the most interesting ones. It's an analogy that sprang into existence from part of certain fatuous people when television was first invented and when in which they compared television to the printing press and on the whole as I say I think this is a kind of starry eyed Neal founded comparison but the analog does hold it seems to me to this extent television and printing press are only inventions. Both of them are invention. Television is not an institution. The use of this invention this crazy Polyphemus II that we have and this picture to the other end olive is fully as broad as the use of the printing press and one speaks of television as an invention which is being used by all
kinds of institutions all kinds of groups of people which affects and is affected by virtually every sort of organization and level in society. Now I insist on this analogy only because when one asks a question like What is the proper or improper use of television one is really only saying what is the proper or improper use of a particular kind of invention. If I were to turn to you and say what is the proper use of the printing press I think you might find this a stumper. I then that this is the reason I find your question a stumper too. I would say that in any society for example in which an invention of this sort did not conducive to public enlightenment the public morality and public awareness of issues for a great deal of the time then the invention is being misused by that society. This is one definition of public interest and it would appear that the present use is
not in the public interest. Turning specifically to problems of broadcasting Ralph Steidl formerly executive director of the Joint Council on Educational Television states that it is not something that is done but something that is not done. I suppose one of the problems we come to have first is that the rating system which comes up noses tends to provide that kind of programming. I would call the lowest common denominator. But I will say it's a common denominator kind of programming. Yes there could be studies made not only as to the programs people want to see or don't want to see but the programs that people might need to see or not need to see. I'm sure they're all areas of vacuum where the problem of broadcasting is not one of commission but one of omission. There are areas where we ought to be providing the kind of damage it
takes only to survive in the 20th century but to successfully cope with it and mold it. I'm not sure that broadcasting by and large has an awareness a sensitivity to the problems of the world we live them. The problems of the nation we live in. It's an easy and comfortable area of programming but I think we have to get into it and not just educational television. I think all kinds of television and radio have to address themselves more and more to the realities of the individual as he enters the world as it is. And a little less to the delightful light entertainment program if it is not done. Why not. What is the nature of the beast controlling these awesome media which prevents them from performing as some have suggested that they should. We ask Sylvester Weaver formerly
head of NBC and now chairman of the board of McCann Erikson International that question people who reviewed emphasis on professionalism. The gentleman interviewed on this series and everyone. Legitimate broadcasting looks upon you as one of the leading lights one of the showman one of the people in the know in terms of producing programs of some quality. Is there a problem in broadcasting today in the broadcasting is run by businessmen in the show. I don't think it's businessman I've always maintained strongly that a businessman in the television business is a man who knows that business. I think the trouble with television is it is not being run by businessmen who know the television business is being run by facilities men who don't know the television business. In other words they do not know advertising. Remember when I went to NBC I'd been the head of an agency twice in radio and television. And one of the top four agencies I had been in charge of advertising and marketing for one of the top corporations using media and broadcasting I knew the advertising business first of all and I brought eight or nine men
with me who were the heads of radio and television of the major agencies we knew our business as far as getting money was concerned much more than anybody and there's nobody of that stature in the networks today as my top people were. If you go to show business. We used the best people in all the show business fails the best legit people the best movie people the best radio people. We use them as men who knew their own forms very well but we knew this we manage this as communicators we knew the reporters we knew the the arts of coverage most of us have been writers and producers and in coverage shows we knew that form we knew how to handle it we knew how to produce it we knew how to promote it know how to exploit it and knew where to schedule the programs so that they wouldn't get caught. Weaver doesn't leave much doubt as to where the problem lies. As to the reason for and the nature of broadcasting. Listen to another broadcaster better known for asking questions rather than answering them. Mike Wallace is unequivocal as he states.
We've got to have entertainment shows and it's pretty reasonable that we have entertainment shows for those entertainment show should not be a saturated with violence be all the same See Olli produce. As far as public service shows are concerned we have to have more of them and we have to have more of them at a time when people can listen to them. I think that we should have to have. Many more news shows. I say that the president has finally succeeded in establishing a commission for national goals to try to determine what our national purpose is are headed by Dr. Esther formally the president of Brown University. It seems to me that perhaps television should just some extent anyway reflect what our national purpose is what our national goals are. We have too much trash on television. We have too much inanity on television and some of the time that is spent on that can be probably better spent in programming that is.
How to properly describe it that is sensible that is at Delta that is meaningful. I don't mean doll I don't mean talking I don't mean preaching. I certainly do mean entertaining but it seems to me that we have perhaps in broadcasting have succeeded in appealing to the lowest common denominator night in and night out the broadcasters they have no issues other inform people give lip service to the state and they agree with you. They say that the broadcasting should be a cut of what has been you know please but to do this. Cares in people is getting a room against new computers you program for not just controversial programs. You see it seems to me when I if I can come back to the lowest common denominator for a minute why do these men and women but mostly men in charge of broadcasting try to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Because their purpose in broadcasting is not broadcasting per se but the selling of goods
per se and they realize that they can reach the largest audience by a lower common denominator of programming in other words they are using broadcasting as a device to sell goods and they take it out of the realm of the merchandising and into the root realm of the informing and entertaining on its own level. Then we'll get better programming. The very men who produce these programmes don't listen wouldn't listen don't particularly want their families listen to a good deal of what they put on the air I've heard them say so themselves. But they figure that they're doing it for some great unwashed crowd someplace out there with whom they have no real communion and for whom they have very little respect. Many have been and continue to be concerned with the state of the national imagination none more eloquently than Father William Lynch of Georgetown University who is the author of a provocative little book called The image industries to which he now refers. I have raised this question in the in the
last page or so all of my own little book and I and I put it this way. We are a great people capable of very great things but the fact is that the truth of what is being activists is being concealed from us in very large measure. We are engaged with a great enemy and we will find ourselves increasingly engaged in every corner of our soul. The conflict is more than military and economic. It is and will be primarily intellectual and spiritual. It will be ultimately a conflict between two states of the imagination. If we consent to a mediocre and contemptible state of the national imagination we may have a life or a battle but not for the campaign or perhaps the next hundred years that lie ahead of us. We are already at war but it is the first war in human history that. But before to everywhere. The responsibility of our mass media within this in Gaige mind is so great that it is almost
incalculable so powerful of their control over our most intimate and everyday images and therefore overall final attitudes and decisions. It is doubtful whether the present commercial matters of these media will live up to that responsibility unless the most valid and most powerful pressure not of the censor but of the national intelligence is brought to bear against concealment resulting in a world of fantasy a world of vicarious participation rather than actual participation. What is the ultimate effect. We return to Dr Rosenheim and I ask well from this point of view on whom would you place the burden of responsibility here. For me to be giving the public what it ought to have. I mean who who are somehow to take this initiative make make certain intellectual intuitive judgments as to what is good for the public. Oh I think we we don't even have to put it on such a lofty level as what is good for the public. Well let me digress for a moment because I think a digression has something to do with this
John. It seems to me that encountering what is regarded as bad about television and we are getting many of us including educational broadcasters educators and all the rest get a little pious about this thing and say Well what we see seems to be bad for people now let's think about what's good for people. And the whole thing is put on a kind of moral plane and be absolutely candid with you. I am not worried about the use of television or radio for subversive purposes. I'm not worried about the immoral possibilities of the use of these media. To put it this way I'm not worried about my kids being turned into subversives or or immoral people or anything of that sort by anything they see on television. I'm not even worried about their being traumatized or scared or anything of that kind. Some people talk as though these were the great threats and when they do talk this way they're playing right into the hands of the defendants of the status quo because the most
venal corrupt broadcaster can do would have me point out that all of it is horse operas are morally all the villain is punished and the hero triumphs. They can point out that that they're impeccably patriotic but that there are no subversive ideas. They even have I suspect captive psychiatry's who proved that a little bit of mayhem here and there as it is perfectly all right and can challenge any parent to show that his child has permanently become a victim of nightmares as a consequence of this. What is wrong about these things. Therefore is not is not to be assessed in these terms. What I lament about broadcasting today is if I may use an archaic word the total absence of taste the thing that worries me about my kids and television is that their horizons for thoughtful reasonable enjoyment are limited. In such an agonizing way by what they see on television that their definition of what is funny is established by the dreadful dreary but
now an unimaginative comic formulas that are repeated again and again. But their notion of what is really exciting in a Drama is limited to the horse opera or hate or the stereotypical private eye of whom we have about fifty on each week. But their notion of tragedy is limited to a kind of death and Little Eva business that occasionally occurs and that they're there. Their notion of ideas is limited to a few Pat home and mother aphorisms that occasionally come out to Marley to salt up these these programs and that's it. See I don't think they're going to be any worse for watching all this television as far as me being successful citizens is concerned and so on. I think they're going to have a kind of harder time understanding and delighting in the products of the human mind which have traditionally delighted thoughtful people in Western civilization. Unless we do something. Absence of taste absence of an aesthetic standard which lifts the horizons of
those participating rather than numbing the imagination by the continual pop performances which permeate broadcasting today. David Brinkley award winning NBC newscaster says I think it would be better if we all devoted our time to trying to make every program on the air whatever it is a better one. If it's a Western make it a good western there's nothing wrong with a Western for relaxation. Lots of people like Westerns nothing whatsoever wrong with it. There is something wrong however with a bad western a cheap chancy tawdry Western. I think we should eliminate them if you're going to put on Westerns put on the best it's possible to put on if you're going to put on a drama and make it the best you possibly can if you're going to put on a quiz program nothing wrong with that either in my opinion. Make it honest also make it entertaining and if possible informative. Even if you were to turn to a particular facet of broadcasting you find this to be true. Dr. S. Franklin Mac executive director of the National Council of Churches of Christ in
America says so I have great sympathy with a broadcaster who's trying to hold an audience against the desire of some religious broadcasters to do things on the air the same way they do them in church and the air is a different media. You don't put a book on TV. You write a TV play. You don't transfer the stage play to TV or to the movies you write a TV version or a movie version. What church people are going to have to realize is when they go on the air it has to be good TV or good radio. Or it isn't good religion. That's about the long and short of it. But some feel that the status quo is good. John Derbyshire former FCC chairman feel so I make the statement that America. Has had more and better high caliber programming than any other country in the world and I have seen it in England and France and Italy and Japan. And I will say that yes. We probably got more mediocre programming but the American people have
to realize that because we just have more programming. We have 60000 hours of broadcasting in this country a day. Television and Radio. What would you understand the statement that you made the FCC made public in serving the public. You understand there are many ways in which the public interest is served the most important is the development of the broadcasting system and the cardinals with the traditions of the American concept of competition. Essentially that's the American way. We do not regulate those things which could be done best in the field of competition. No one would think of regulating the newspapers in this country. No one would think to regulate in the movies or the energy or the magazine or the authors of books. And what is essentially the difference between them or their media and their media of mass
communication and that of broadcasting. The only difference was that originally there was a scarcity compared to the media today there is no scarcity. We have four to ten times more broadcasting facilities than you have newspapers. There are only 10 metropolitan areas or 12 in this country that have three or more newspapers we have over well I think the figure was 60. We have 16 metropolitan areas where they have three more television stations alone let alone a host of radio stations. So the scarcity argument is pretty threadbare. It's scarce in the sense that we don't have as many of these facilities as there are as a demand it in that sense there's a scarcity but actually this. Argument about because there's a scarcity is why the government regulates is getting more diluted each year. And once we get to the point where all
who wish may have a facility a radio facility a television facility then obviously there's no reason at all for regulating programming either that or this country is going to embark upon a course regulating not only the expression of the stage and of ideas political religious scientific and other and the broadcasting field but in every media. And that I think is a distinct danger. It's and it's a threat to our way of life that's a retrogression to a dictatorship. I shudder at the thought. Did Americans choose their broadcasting system or did they choose it by not choosing is what is being broadcast what the people want. Dr. Paul B Ricard director of broadcasting for Wayne State University says John I personally believe. And I don't like it and I don't think any of us really like it.
But what you find on radio and television is a pretty direct reflection of the cultural status of the American people. Any broadcaster that is going to stay in business very long is going to put on what the people want you spending all of the funds he can get his hands on to find out for sure what the people want. And when you have a situation of a rating showing that they do not listen to it obvious is going to come off of that. So they're doing everything they can to find out what the people want and what you see on television is apparently what the people want. What do you think it's a truism in our time that the people from whom you would like to hear are not necessarily those who are prone to right. I'm afraid that's true. And so I guess too in my experience you get letters from what we might harshly call here the lunatic fringe the people who are easily disturbed because these letters tend to knock a program off the air where the man has not gotten the
response from the individuals who like the program. Really interesting study John if you could take the letters of the station gotten a year. Find out what kind of people wrote those letters. You would have some understanding of the value of letters. I have a hunch that many of the programs that the disc jockeys get are not from an adult audience for one thing and possibly not a very responsible audience but be instinct and find out. Another study of the results of which might be buried in some Ph.D. dissertation to be stored in the archives of some university library does the broadcaster want to know does he really care. David Susskind in TV's bad boy one of the few independent producers is concerned about the controls imposed on him from within and without the broadcasting field. Let me ask you about the controls imposed by either advertising or taste of the American public at all on writers. Some writers feel that they are ham strung.
Rod Serling among them. But they can say what they like to say because they must cater to this mythological mind if you will. We don't want to hurt anybody or get into any controversial area. Well I think it's true in one sense certainly it's true in terms of thematic material. There are certain controversial powerfully argumentative themes in our country that cannot be dealt with. You could not on network television currently with your name be Rod Serling or George Bernard Shaw. Deal with civil rights in a trenchant powerful kind of way. You couldn't deal with miseducation you couldn't deal with homosexuality you couldn't do deal with any of those human aberrations that are true and that do reflect some portions of our cultural community. Now thematic LEE Some stories are banned because the sponsor finds them controversial
downbeat morbid or otherwise unpalatable. Sure one of those subjects however practically anything that can be done with taste can be done in television today. It's just a question of finding the sponsor who would do it or the network that would have the guts to support its doing. Mr. Serling has been afflicted from time to time with some petty fathering censorship. But I think that is more the exception than the rule. The big censorship is the censorship of theme or idea that is unfortunately terribly true. The division on civil rights in the South makes wholly impractical. The doing of a real exciting dramatic story about civil rights. So it appears that we are more concerned about the explosions of guns rather than the explosions of ideas you've heard some of the problems of the
- Ethic for broadcasting
- Broadcaster of the art, part 1
- Producing Organization
- WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the first of two parts, discusses the need for artfulness in broadcasting.
- Series Description
- This series presents interviews that center on issues in broadcasting and society.
- Broadcast Date
- Film and Television
- Media type
Host: Cambis, John
Interviewee: Brinkley, David
Interviewee: Rosenheim, Edward W.
Interviewee: Lynch, William
Interviewee: Weaver, Sylvester
Producer: Cusack, Marianne
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-52-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Ethic for broadcasting; Broadcaster of the art, part 1,” 1961-09-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 5, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-513tz57d.
- MLA: “Ethic for broadcasting; Broadcaster of the art, part 1.” 1961-09-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 5, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-513tz57d>.
- APA: Ethic for broadcasting; Broadcaster of the art, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-513tz57d