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It seems to me though that what you have to say about the limitations here leads to a positive suggestion that might work. This would destroy the immediacy which is one of TV's main assets. It may be its greatest. However it would work because it could be a documentary program after the fact. In other words put cameras on a bill as it proceeds through Congress through committee hearings through debate and all of the rest of the business that has to be done and through signature or veto. And then present it. As a total program cutting out all the necessaries and reducing it to the actual important events. This is a possibility that I think would be mighty enlightening to the American people. And maybe helpful to congressional members if they had a chance to look in
and see it as a completed product. Mr. Wagoner that idea has been proposed and I think it's much more practical than the idea of trying to televise on the spot happening. But I have two objections to it. In the first place you would accumulate many many hours of film and. Transcription voice record and somebody would have to edit it. And I wonder if there wouldn't be difficulty in the editing. The editor would cut out one step in the process which let's say one political party felt was vital to its understanding and you'd soon be accused of doctoring the effect of the material and then the other thing which I think is also very real. I wonder how many people realise the nervous pressure that is created when you
have to work in the presence of television cameras and lights. And I wonder if we would have the typical process of lawmaking if every step of the way we were under the pressure of the lights and the camera to it would cut much of the spontaneity out of the discussion I think it might actually cut some of the debate out because of that ever present to well I won't say threat but it it it is pressure. I think those two put together would. It would make me feel that that kind of a documentary would not be worth what it costs. As I have I have felt that if it is important that the people know how a certain legislative proposal was carried through one or two of its
proponents and opponents can be brought together under Can controlled conditions. In a typical television studio and there can explain it or explain their part in it or present their point of view on it in a limited time. And I think maybe that kind of editing is more satisfactory than having creating the whole mass and then having some outsider attempt to decide what should stay in and which would go out. Senator Bennett. Well there are some questions from listeners. Along the same line which we might anticipate now for instance there is one from Harrison show just to show as a chemist from Ames Iowa he works for the Atomic Energy Commission and he put his question the question we want to ask you this way. Senator Bennett you have Newsmax working on your news reports from Congress now.
And why can't our reporters be given the same facilities who are deciding which you know what report what is the news from Congress and maybe from everyone and still other listeners pointed out that the press radio and television have the same problem of selecting and editing news. And so why should one be feared any more than the other. Well maybe maybe I'm exaggerating the situation for a while let's put this other point of view. There is a wide variety of people working for newspapers and working on the same problem and there may be a wide variety of points of view presented. But obviously we couldn't have 20 or 30 or 40 variations of the same television material. I doubt that we'd actually have time to follow more than one or two of these things through our television channels would be too crowded to get it done so we'd be
inclined to limit ourselves to the editing of one minor one point of view whereas if you don't like what the New York Times says you can buy the post and get a completely different point of view on the same material. Senator Bennett I think will ease up on our questions for about five minutes so you can listen to some people we recorded many miles away in connection with this question. We've been talking about the broadcasting and televising of important congressional debates on an irregular basis. Now as you know the Australian Parliament has been broadcast on a regular basis ever since 1946 I think it was. And they do a pretty thorough job of broadcasting to all of Australia the complete debates of the House or Senate three days a week six to eight hours a day for the 24 or so weeks parliament is in session. The details and the guiding principles of these broadcasts are handled by a nine man
parliamentary committee from both houses. We sort of wonder to what some Australians thought of these broadcasts 20 to 24 hours a week mind you. So we asked the Australian Broadcasting Commission if they'd record some on the street comment so Australian Citizens Commission responded by sending a recording of eight people being interviewed by Keith Smith. We'll hear these Australians but perhaps we should say that we don't imply and the Australian Broadcasting Commission wouldn't wish us to imply that these eight represent what Australian people as a whole think of parliamentary broadcasts that might be quite a bit of implying we do say however that this is how some people felt about some of the problems connected with some of the broadcasts. And I hope you'll be interested. Perhaps Senator Bennett in discovering whether the Australians have their problems with demagogues in scene stealers.
Suppose we go by a transcription of the Sydney Australia. It is a middle aged man. Do you listen to parliamentary road gosh I do I'm the disappoint of what goes on in the house there's too much talk and not enough work in my opinion. You listen very often. Oh yes I always like to say what's going on on my own and I like to say that was somebody was doing something thoughtful because we paid them to do it. They work for you. Yes they work and what I sway of whale right quietly by the taxes to keep them going. You think that by going to broadcast have any effect on the behavior of the politicians themselves. I don't think so and there's a lot of effect on the listeners. I'm asked all the politicians I don't think they can much about it myself. How do you think parliamentary broadcast stack up as good entertainment alongside other programs. Well I'm a fiver on but I'd like it and I think the public but can't attend these things that you should I should have that privilege. Here's a housewife housewife I suppose that is great.
What do you think of parliamentary broadcast and I think they are much too pissed know how to lean what I sculled amongst themselves too much instead of attending to things more important like the business of the country. Exactly. Listen not very often that. When you listen did you find it entertaining stimulating a what. Now I have a boring I thought I'm a housewife and I just need a yes vote cast a pound a minute for the simple reason I'm always interested in the well-being of people and I think they I had cast right in at the time. At the time I am in Parliament do you think that people are more parliamentary minded as a result of the broadcast. And this person is actually interested whether there's a broadcast and I need permission in particularly the women. Unfortunately there's always a switch on the right that switch on the radio as part of the democratic process just as part of that is I get that I never just straight on and on. Seems to me that it's just a question of democratic government it might be all right to say that in a democracy the country is run by the people in little place like Switzerland where
you can keep in touch with things but in a place like a straight it was sounds and sounds of miles separating you from Kendall you stay out of it was something that used to be very easy to lose touch with what the government was doing. Now you can watch your local member and you can actually hear your own complaint and in parliament your occupation I manufacture. Do you think that part of the three broadcasts are essential in Australia. Distinctly. I think that being a democratic country we should have the privilege of a democratic institution to be broadcast to the masses providing the masses have enough intelligence to grasp. What is going on in the broadcast. Do you ever hear your local member at work in Parliament. Well to be very candid I don't know who my local member is. There's a lady sitting on a park bench enjoying the sun would you answer a few questions will be. Certainly you listen to the radio very much. Yes I do. Oh listen to a Parliamentary broadcast. Yes quite often. You like them.
Yes yes I do. Why. For the fun of it. You only listen for the fun of it. Yes I do. Right. What sort of fun Exactly. Oh I enjoy the fighting and squabbling that goes on between the parliamentary members. Here's a man cleaning his car. Do you listen to parliamentary broadcasts. Yes I do said the mound that my wife listens much more often than I do as I have naturally to work. What do you get out of them when you are able to listen. I am chiefly upset at the and dignified language you used by most of the people there and I strongly resent the remarks that are made by other members who are not making the speech and interrupt people who are trying to make a reasonable speech and trying to tell the country what they're doing. From what you've heard then would you say that the listeners or the politicians gain more from the broadcast. I feel it's more for the. Politicians than for the listeners as I think the politicians doing it more for advertisement for themselves then for the good of the country.
As an ordinary housewife in a very busy one I don't have a great deal of time to listen to my radio but I do like to feel that I am in touch with what's going on in Canberra. There are many discussions that aren't of great interest to me and financial discussions and things that don't touch me as an average housewife that quite often the debate is of particular interest and I like to make time to listen and hear what is being said in Canberra that might eventually affect me. I saw the state legislature almost a legislature on a few occasions last year. We were last here two years ago when they were being televised and it was more of a three ring circus when there was a group of so-called educated men. By that I mean that there were a lot of the grand standers great showman guys who were trying to get up in front of the television camera look Birdy him and say a lot of police things that I don't think they would have they would have bothered
with had there not been a television camera there and I'm afraid that the same thing would happen to more thinking because Gordon politicians are no different than Oklahoma politicians. Certainly I will agree with you that there are certain individuals who as you call them are scene stealer. But I do believe that people can discern who those individuals are and will take that into consideration if they follow the proceedings close enough at least in our state legislature it was not a major problem it was only a minor problem. Senator Bennett I don't know how the US Oklahomans got mixed up with our Australian friends and I don't know if Casey called me or the news editor of the Norman Oklahoma transcript would extend his remark to say that politicians in Oklahoma or Washington and Australia are pretty much the same. But at any rate one thing we do know is that both the Australian Parliament and the
Oklahoma state legislature have been on radio or television the last session of the Oklahoma legislature was televised on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from two to three every week. Evidently an Obama in Australia it was felt that a need does exist and some accommodations were made by the legislators. I've listened to the Australian comments and I have found many of my own objections stated one way or another. Actually there's should be a much simpler problem than ours because their country while it's big in size is small in population and maybe I'm exaggerating when I feel that the problems they discuss are not quite so serious and some of those we hate. All right then Senator let's turn to the Oklahoma experience.
Norman Reynolds the other Oklahoma you heard argues that the weekly telecasts of the last session of the Oklahoma State Legislature proves at least that it can be done. Mr. Reynolds is a member of the legislature. Senator you referred to the question of following a particular bill through Congress. And the time scheduling now I believe first that it would be almost impossible considering the close time schedules of the television and radio networks operate on. Do you follow any particular bail. But I do believe that the legislature has been successful and you might call it tinkering with their schedule to a limited extent. We have had definite times that we know the television was going to be on and we have attempted to arrange in so far as we could without hindering our own progress to have more interesting subjects on for discussion at that time.
Although there have been certain days that we have not changed our mode of procedure at all. And I believe that either time the people have enjoyed what they have gotten over the air and they have advised me that they thought it was very educational and that we should continue to. So televised or by any means either television or radio bring the actual legislative functioning to the people. Senator I have found that the people need to understand government government has grown very complex during the past few years as it has grown so large and cumbersome. The people are confused by large government and anything we can do to make it more understandable to them will help make democracy work better. I am interested very much in Mr. Runnels comments.
I was particularly interested in his admission that in order to make it work in Oklahoma they had to tinker with their schedule. And now you come to a question of values. What's the responsibility of a legislature. Member of Congress it seems to me that our first responsibility is to get our work done. And that when you interject this new responsibility to provide entertainment at a given time or education if you please that it interferes with our operation. Maybe I'm stuffy and old fashioned but I think the freedom of the Senate is one of its greatest assets and I don't think we should tinker with it and I don't think the present senators will vote for that kind of a change. Maybe out of tradition maybe out of self defense I don't know. Senator Bennett if if the radio and TV people were willing to bet their wisdom such as they have
on when a bill might be coming up for final debate and vote and perhaps lose that bet. But if they were to ask no concessions. When asked if the Senate's rules on free and unlimited debate. Would be would you then be in favor of letting them come in with their microphones and cameras and take their chances. No there are a number of other reasons which we haven't discussed which led me to believe that the presence of radio and television equipment on the floor of the Senate would interfere with our orderly processes. Maybe this is the time to discuss them. If there were set times when broadcasts or telecast were to be made then the tinkering that Mr. Reynolds mentioned would undoubtedly go on. There are ninety six men in the Senate. Each of us has the right if we if he can get the floor to express himself.
Some of us are better speakers than others. Some of us are better prepared to discuss a subject particular subject than others and I think if you had this kind of an arranged. Broadcast you tend to crowd better prepared people into the background and pretty soon we debate developing teams like they do in football read. We'd have platoons we'd have television heroes who were brought forward on a particular subject. To me all of those things interfere with the legislative process and put motives into the situation. Purposes are foreign to. Robert Merton again in view of what Senator Bennett has just been saying. This seems to be a particularly good time for us to take stock once more and to examine what's been happening in this discussion a little while back you'll remember we were saying that in this discussion is the
most discussion. The same facts tend to look very different from different points of view. And now we've had this confirmed almost in a spectacular way what seems to amount to is this. The senator looks at the matter of televising broadcasting congressional debate pretty largely in terms of what it might do to the Senate to senators and possibly to legislative processes. The people questioning him on the other hand tend to look at the same matter broadcasting congressional debate pretty much in terms of what it means to the people to their interest in government to their understanding of government. In other words each side tends to look at the same situation very much in terms of its impact on the groups with which they have had the most
direct experience. Now let's look at this a little more closely. First the people doing the questioning. What does broadcasting and congressional debate mean for them. Well for some it means a great educational experience in matters of government. It means that they feel that legislation will actually be brought home to them for the first time. For others it means an intriguing experience. For still others it represents an expression of the right of the people to know what is going on. And if you remember some of them felt that since the people foot the bill for Congress it was for all other governmental developments and processes they ought to know what is going on and that television and radio might improve their understanding of what was going on.
When a major bill of great proportions and of great import to the American people is being debated on the floor of the Senate or the house. Let's say it has to do with atomic energy let's say it has to do with a draft to say it has to do with price control or rent control. I believe. That. That would be the time. To turn in the full glare of publicity on and let the people who are going to pay the bill. Have a look in the home of the people who will decide whether the bill is passed or whether it is not. The senator on the other hand sees this very same issue very largely in terms of what it might do to the Senate. His concern is what might it do about a way of limiting the traditional Senate pattern of free and unlimited debate. What it might do by way of interrupting repressing the spontaneity of
discussion on the part of the senators who might have might fright or who might be under great pressure because they knew they were being televised or that their discussions were being broadcast or again that it might interfere with the orderly legislative process sees because some senators might conceivably seek the spotlight and others might be unduly timid if we attempt to jazz up the legislative process. We'd open our microphones to demagogues and scene stealers and we'd be more concerned with the show the legislation. In other words the senator is looking at one set of possible consequences namely the consequences for the Senate and the senator and the people are looking at an entirely different set of consequences namely the assumed effects for the people who comprise the constituency. Well the net result of this is
that without any intention as far as we can see both sides are doing a good bit of talking past one another and looking at the same problem but examining quite different sets of possible consequences and we will note that this doesn't necessarily halt at this point but the same pattern continues throughout. Another person who won the talk back Senator Bennett was Howard Spencer territory supervisor for a school supplies and equipment company. We recorded what he had to say in the living room of these home in Syracuse New York.
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People talk back
Radio-TV: In the halls of Congress?, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In this program, the second of three parts, citizens talk back to Sen. Wallace F. Bennett of Utah about the debate over whether or not to broadcast sessions in Congress over radio and television.
Series Description
This series presents a series of questions posed to politicians about current affairs.
Broadcast Date
Politics and Government
United States. Congress. House--Television broadcasting of proceedings.
Media type
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Merton, Robert King, 1910-2003
Producer: Tangley, Ralph
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Wheatley, Parker, 1906-1999
Speaker: Bennett, Wallace F. (Wallace Foster), 1898-1993
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 53-13-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:24:47
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