Ethic for broadcasting; Critic of the art, part 3
The BBC system substituted for us I think would be disastrous and unworkable. It's not in our tradition it's just it's no good. It's rooted in a tradition vastly different from ours I would never have never favored the substitution of the BBC system for us. I think television is now subject of ridicule. I think the sets are being watched but not with brains and hearts. I think it's just kind of happened in the American household and the fact of the matter is that the sensible viewer will edit his television viewing the same way he edits his reading. He can find the television and listening that he wants and then any reasonable person would want to view in the course of the pressures are so powerful that public decision doing here you know I think you made a point just recently about the number of persons in the Congress who Radio Television uses those voices belong to educator David Susskind producer
Mike Wallace TV personality and Marcus Chiles columnist. 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 12. The critic of the art part 3 and now here is your host John Campbell as the critic especially in broadcasting is one to whom we turn if we agree. And one who is furthest from our minds if we don't much like the asking or giving of advice we seek that which we know and want. And if at first we do not succeed we try others
until we do. The critic disturb some people much like the efficiency expert does who comes in once a month. Question your activities sets plans before you castigate you for not following them and then leaves to return anon with criticism though much of it be good to the point explicit. Much of what is said is similar to that of the efficiency expert sound and fury which should signify something. But you're not sure just what. Criticism that would have idealism as its template must be realistic too when it points the direction must be clear with the alternatives and resultant actions clearly spelled out for whatever course is followed. Consequently the blue pencil needs more than energetic fingers to push it. It requires contemplation and meditation. Thoughtful analysis. Responsible celebration which is the obligation of the critic. The professional critics of broadcasting did not beat a path through our microphones to a man choosing print as their medium of expression. Nonetheless we will endeavor to reflect their views as indeed
those from whom you are about to hear do. Charles Slepian head of the communications program at New York University here refers to one such critic when he points out that the evidence is that neither the broadcaster nor the FCC has apparently been willing to fulfill their related role so far. If they haven't seems to conclude that then the system doesn't work. You have driven to some alternative Walter Lippmann has proposed one that will let the commercial broadcasters pursue his gain and His purposes and provide the public with a great many services that people like and need and want. But that we fill the gap in terms of the real needs of people in terms of the context of our times that we secure this by establishing alongside of commercial broadcasting a federally subsidized but independent corporation which would be basically and you could drive in the flow of broadcast material that it
was devoted to. That's another alternative. The BBC system substituted for hours I think would be disastrous and unworkable. It's not in our tradition it's just it's no good. It's rooted in a tradition vastly different from ours I would never have never favored the substitution of the BBC system for us. I think what the Lipton's conception of an alternative possibility is worth looking at. My own belief is that well my recommendations before the commission were twofold First that the act be enacted at last that the broadcast licensee be held to his commitments by a commission acting responsibly and actively on our behalf the public's behalf. But that seeing that we can't expect full services from them. And parallel B get federal funds to activate the two hundred fifty eight frequencies that have been reserved for educational broadcasting and bring in something similar. This would be a slightly different mechanism for bringing about Walter Lippmann conception of
an alternative service. That is the position that I would take the commission to fulfill its functions of being the last court of appeal of public interest respecting the commercial broadcasters but bringing in parallel activating as it were a fresh network financed sufficiently from federal funds but without federal control to operate educationally to fill in the gaps of what the broadcaster leaves out. This may indeed fill certain voids but the cry is continually heard that this being a free enterprise system the public owning the airwaves as they do made the choice as to what system of broadcasting they would have. Marcus Chiles syndicated columnist reacts to this point as he says the public need no choice at all. The public really made no choice here I think the public might very well prefer pay-TV if they had a real job to say whereby they could get the programs they want and pay for much of the pressures are so powerful that
public decisions don't really doing here. No I think you made a point just recently about the number of persons in the Congress who owned radio television because I think this is perfectly of rages situation and I think that this should I think that these men and women should be required to divest themselves of these properties that this is an improper example of whether whether they are the most upright people or not an implication of influence in relation to their money. This smacks of conflict of interests but the price paid here is much more important and certainly not to be evaluated in dollars and cents. Governmental private holdings and broadcasting are in reality putting reins on ideas. Again it is the symptom of which it should be the cure. The politician wanting to inform his constituents will do nothing which would jeopardize his private interests such as suggesting further legislation. But this as we have shown is not needed for as Alan Dreier a noted author a newspaper man
says. Well I think that is something that again public pressure is about the only thing that can can control and I think that it's a rather nebulous field and I don't think that Congress can legislate it very well. It will take quite a genius I think to write the laws that would control taste I think that it depends on the character of the people who are putting on the programs and the response they get I think thing as I said earlier I think they are responsive to a really strong public protest about tasty programs they put on. Well this protest is not forthcoming and furthermore this appears to be a symptom of a much larger problem. What is your reaction to this Mr. Drury. Well I think that there is a. A very disturbing phoniness that runs through a great many areas of American life. I think that is corsets and highlight of the moment in the TV investigation but I think it applies to many other phases of society and I think it is a thing of great concern. I think we all should be concerned about it because I think it runs through our whole society.
But all I can say is that in a democracy and aroused public opinion is the best solution and the best medicine for things that go wrong. Congress can do a certain amount through legislation but it is in the last analysis up of the up to the public. And if they are not aroused then that's their hard luck so I say you know what we can do to start them up any more than they are me. They're hard luck. Maybe so maybe we too are like some critics sound and fury signifying nothing. And though it doesn't seem possible maybe the situation is not bad enough. But David Susskind does not agree and his own answer is that some men of gift intuition responsibility insensitivity will emerge from this jungle of mediocre midgets and will do a job that's all. And here we suggest that one of the showman has emerged. You yourself know how many Imus's can break but I'll let you know you know. Well how can these voices be heard if the broadcasters are content to stay with what might be termed sterile
ideas because they will emerge as the situation becomes acutely. Desperate in its own measure solutions human solutions are forthcoming when our country has need of great leadership we find Lincoln and Wilson and Roosevelt and when England needed help desperately there was Winston Churchill not television needs help desperately and men will emerge from this kind of wit less time they were in and they will exercise leadership they will be heard and they will manifest their talent through good programming. We have been at morrow. We had a Pat Weaver and we will find others and it is going to be overnight but I think there will dent the jump that now prevails because the public I think is becoming articulately fed up with this. I think television is now a subject of ridicule. I think the sets are being watched but not with brains and
hearts. I think its just kind of a sick happened in the American household. Goods are not being sold in the numbers that they must be sold to justify the cost of television and thus the sponsors beginning to stare with Graph and sales chart in hand and ask ugly questions of this agency. Networks are beginning to show red figures on their ledger. There is a kind of glorious discontent manifesting itself in and out of this will come the kind of heroic showman needed to save the situation. But you mention two terms showman and public on whom would you put the burden of responsibility both simultaneously the public has been too apathetic it's been mired in inertia indifference and insensitivity favorite line of mine is George Bernard Shaw's that if you give the public what it wants long enough it pretty soon begins to want when it gets this public has begun to want the jump that it's getting and it must articulate. It's on the
happiness of the average father and mother of a household has been gone now to be unhappy about what his children are watching the bloodshed the mayhem the violence the absence of any constructive intelligent programming. He is also becoming sensitive for the first time that he could do something about it that the airwaves belong to the people. He's beginning to write letters he's beginning to protest he's beginning to ridicule. When he does this in sufficient numbers he will induce broadcasters and sponsors to make changes that are desperately needed now to bring about what you have suggested. Some answers have been put forth like having a czar like having a combination of intellectual individuals who oversee this. Do you feel that this is needed or is the status quo sufficient to bring this about. Well I can't I can't accept your promise that it's either or. The status quo is ugly and needs to free hauling and revolutionizing and it
is happening. The notion of a czar or a number of czars is ridiculous utterly ridiculous. It's not a game a children's game whereby an umpire can say chaps stop this and I would also be terribly worried about the Tsar. I would have a feeling that he would be one of the mental derelicts of whom we already enjoy. Too many in the industry on the other hand I would be very leery of an outsider having no conception of broadcasting or programming stepping in because he had a big reputation in another field. I think it violates the very conception of the balanced programming diet to have a single man as voice of all authority. It lies within the province of television and its many components. The broadcasters the networks the agencies and the sponsors to do its own job. I think that we see a creeping kind of progress even now as we speak. We see advertisers
who formerly went for the lowest kind of programming suddenly sponsoring public affairs programs. We see sponsors a little sensitive to their steady diet and unity. I've had sponsors say well maybe we should discuss some of those other notions that you mentioned in the past. It's easier to get something good on the air today than it was a year ago. Cigarette companies are now sponsoring things called Journey to understanding impossible a year ago they would have look for Susie's God or them a cheerful situation comedy having to do the. Do you love life. Twenty eight year old me looking for today they will follow the present the United States as he tours to India. I think that yes it's progress for which I guess we should be thankful but the snail's pace is frustrating. Moreover it might appear that we have leveled off. That things are not quite as bad as they seemed. Two years ago a national magazine stated
in an editorial commenting on the quiz scandals as being only a symptom that what is important is that we recognize the television scandals for what they are a symptom of the declining standards of moral behavior in the United States. That twinge in the National Ballet that warns of deep seated malignancy in the body politic the issue before the Republic therefore is not merely how to police the airways. The industry itself may see to that if only to avoid the twin threats of federal regulation in pay-TV ours is a far more difficult task. The First Stone has been cast. Now all of our treasured institutions are called to account for their stewardship each determining for itself how riddled with cancer of moral indifference it may be. Even a cursory glance at our society reveals that the ethics of the quiz show are by no means confined to television. In many of our schools for instance we tacitly approve the policy of automatic promotion that sleazy practice of sending dollars from grade to grade when they can't or won't do the required work but must be advanced
because there's no place else for them to go. Alternately they are graduated ill prepared for the jobs they will seek with their fraudulent diplomas. In our colleges responsible educators now estimate that perhaps as many as one third of all students cheat rather regularly on their examinations. It is really not surprising that they do so their more celebrated classmates the football team were very probably recruited by one or another of the undercover Dodgers employed by college administrators to circumvent the pious codes. They publicly endorse and the editorial concludes by saying that newspapers and magazines alike are wide open to the charge that we have a bet at the National delinquency by helping to foster a phony value system in our country by glamorizing sports we so inflated the football star that colleges felt justified in buying him to fill the stadium that costs more than the physics building. By our preoccupation with the starlit the sweetly smiling faces of television we encouraged our readers to accept phony standards of success helped by the creatures of
publicity to rewards that their contributions do not merit. View it against this capsule picture of the seamy side of the United States the television mass begins to come into focus. Television we repeat was guilty of gross negligence and gross cowardice in surrendering programming to the advertiser. Those who have been damaged by the revelations deserve to be damn television paid the penalty not because it was the only offender but because it was the most obvious target. Some other houses are in need of cleaning for their own good and for the nations. That was two years ago. Sure we don't have a large reward quiz shows but that which has replaced them does not shed any more light on the needs and what might be needed more suggested directions for the American people. Mike Wallace television personality comments next and gives his reaction to this business of surrendering programming to the advertiser. I believe the advertiser should have absolutely nothing to say I want to broadcast I think the magazine concept of that is used on the best British
commercial system or some such device can be employed. The same is used in newspapers and I'm not suggesting that from time to time this they are not certain abuses that creep in certain corruption that creep in but basically the newspapers run their own editorial material and the advertisers purchase space in which to put their hands. And one is entirely apart from the other and one cannot put pressure upon the other. And indeed that's the way it should be. Now there's only one qualifying statement I'd like to make I'm making it sound as though it's all bad it isn't all bad by any means. And the fact of the matter is that if the sensible viewer will edit his television viewing the same way he edits his reading he can find all of the television viewing and listening that he wants and that any reasonable person would want to view in the course of a week. After all how much television how much time should you spend in television watching television in the course of a week 10 hours it seems to me
is quite sufficient. And I'm sure that if you edit your I know that I edit my television viewing carefully and I can see 10 good hours I don't generally spend that much time. But I can see ten first rate hours of television and there's another 10 hours left oh. Unfortunately not enough of us do. Get it our television viewing the same way that we had it all written when we walk into a bookstore to pick up comic books. We pick up a fullish soap opera trash. We don't know. Well I guess they give us more instead of the 10 hours of the 15 hours of the 20 hours we should have. Perhaps 40 percent of 50 percent of good substantial programming. I understand the necessity for doing the other programming as well. Why can't it all be good. Why the necessity for doing the other kind. The other kind whatever it is predominates because broadcasting has given itself over almost
completely to entertainment. One of the basic responsibilities of broadcasting not only in the public interest and convenience but of the necessity. Charles statement returns to answer our question as we ask. When you've used the terms public responsibility and we've referred to the term public interest which you see. Of interest. Currently what would you say is serving the public interest in broadcasting in broadcasting serving the public interest in broadcasting. For me means honoring a basic principle related to the public interest namely the use of this medium to provide for each and all of us the widest conceivable range of experience exposure to everything that broadcasting can bring to us in terms of knowledge insight of issues of considerations that bear upon our individual growth and awareness. This is
the public interest means the exposure of all and sundry to such a wide variety of experiences as saves us from going through life parochial minded like a horse with blinkers on and confined in our vision. And to that extent unaware of the issues of life and death that face us. That got the issue of life and death does indeed faces today. As I said in my testimony before the commission in that atomic energy has produced a state of affairs that has never existed in human history before the simple fact that there is not a human being on this earth today who can claim a life expectancy with any certainty or assurance beyond the intake of a thousand breaths which is the time it takes for a ballistic missile fired from point x to reach point y anywhere on this earth. Total extermination is in the cards these days. Now under a circumstance of that kind the the DIC the degree of the exercise of responsibility in areas of communication is raised to a
point of such significance as to be an issue of life and death. We cannot in this age afford to be parochial ignorant stupid unaware. The ordinary citizen pursuing his daily round is confined in his life in his experiences. He can go he can travel around the world he can't get firsthand experience. The world has to be brought to his doorstep. If he is going to be a self conscious aware responsible individual and awareness this concept it would appear should be the cornerstone of all broadcasting. But all the listener is aware of is the ne unity which exists which oddly enough transforms him into a passive dependent which leads to the confusion between fantasy and reality. This fascination as someone has said is derived from the unprecedented illusion it contrives that man has acquired omnipresence for the first time the eternal dream of man seems realized to participate himself unseen and uncommitted in all the lives that surround him. Of
course intelligence and aesthetic sensibility inform him that he is being cheated that television's reality is falsified and it's fiction polluted that he is participating if at all in a masquerade. And yet the mere fact of simultaneity the fact that while he safely remains within the shell of his self other people are at this very same moment desperately reaching out for him. This pretense of personal experience magnified to include the world seems to exert an irresistible attraction. Can this be changed. Well maybe not in kind but degree. Raymond Brandt the Washington bureau chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has asked on whom he would place the burden of responsibility in an attempt to arrive if possible at some broadcasting equilibrium. Well I think it's the obligation of all of them and I have to be the big bird the big advocate there doing the work on their so-called photo program
for the concert. So the networks have and they had to have the duty and I think the business proposition for them to present more of those to the advertisers. Then I have to think it's the duty of the allegation the individual station. They don't have to take all the programs they do it because it's easy. I would like to see more local programs. There is no single person for whom it would be the obligation of the. Publication of all those who pay for and make money out of the media more locally originated programs rather than slavish taking the offerings of the network. But many times this works in reverse especially with public service programs originating with the
network. The local station will not carry them in favor of locally sponsored shows. You're in the business to make money so make it appears to be the philosophy. We asked Marcus childs about controversial programs and that these public service programs may and should contain some controversy but that Americans might not like it. Oh that perfect nonsense. Of course Americans like controversy have you ever heard of the American Revolution. Haven't you heard of the great debates in the Continental Congress haven't you heard of the Civil War. Haven't you heard of the discussion that led up to that controversy is the root of American life it is only the timid it is the false timidity of the owners so-called of this enterprise that are fearful of controversy. I don't want to hear that any false timidity translated and you get to play it safe. We asked Mr. Chiles about the public apathy and lethargy which appeared to exist when of course they're apathetic because they're fed marshmallows every day.
Why shouldn't they be apathetic in every given anything to offer something into which they could get their teeth. Well why don't we have any response from them as to what they want. Oh I don't and I think that's probably because they're just apathetic and dead and indifferent because what they get is Western 910 the time and the other one tenth their crime. Again the similarity and simultaneity of programming. Who controls this. The advertiser broadcaster. FCC Roscoe Drummond syndicated columnist develops a Russian now for the behavior of the FCC as he says since the FCC has done nothing that would seem to give displeasure to the industry. I would conclude that it is remarkably responsive to the understandable interests of the industry and not as responsible.
To its duties in the public interest and not responsible to its duties in the public interest. As Edward R. Murrow has said all too often in radio and television audiences are conceived and treated as people not as persons. Quantitative response is consequently made the measure of quality. There is a willingness and indeed eagerness to answer questions what and how. But not enough attention is paid to why well here to the critic can concern himself with this. Point out the wise don't only chew of the sour grapes and spit the seeds at radio and television. We're not asking that critics be crusaders but their writing should amount to something more than the lining in tomorrow morning's garbage can. But maybe they too are worried about alienating audiences. Or maybe if they spoke out they wouldn't get printed. So Another problem is posed nonetheless they could continue to point out to what extent broadcasting cripples the sense Auriol experiences of the world be it country state or community. No idea is too big or too
- Ethic for broadcasting
- Critic of the art, part 3
- Producing Organization
- WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the third of three parts, focuses on criticisms of television programming.
- 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: Siepmann, Charles A. (Charles Arthur), 1899-1985
Interviewee: Wallace, Mike, 1918-2012
Interviewee: Susskind, David, 1920-1987
Interviewee: Charles, Marcus
Producer: Cusack, Marianne
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-52-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Ethic for broadcasting; Critic of the art, part 3,” 1961-12-03, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-mk658d55.
- MLA: “Ethic for broadcasting; Critic of the art, part 3.” 1961-12-03. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-mk658d55>.
- APA: Ethic for broadcasting; Critic of the art, part 3. 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-mk658d55