thumbnail of Ethic for broadcasting; Critic of the art, part 1
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
And if we build a culture based on fantasy Well then in a moment of crisis we are not going to face moments of reality militarily or socially wanted. We want the truth we literally won't want it. I mean we're this is a country that believes in freedom of speech and freedom of religion the one thing we haven't quite accepted as freedom of taste. But as far as I'm concerned I want freedom of taste I don't want somebody telling me what I can't see on TV I want to bridge it turning it off myself. I don't see any he just thing grievous violation of the Mara law I see or rather an indifference to it here in a matter of taste. I would assume that it doesn't make too much difference whether you're Catholic Protestant Jew in the hammock then you can have good or bad taste. Those voices belong to the Rev. William F. Lynch educator doctoress
Franklin Mack director of religious broadcasting the Reverend Edward B Bunn educator and the Reverend Celeste and Jay Steiner educator. This is 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 10. The critic of the art part one religion. And now here is your host John Kember's religious broadcasting in America runs the gamut from small r to capital R religion from programs of general moral ethical concerns to devotional services and considering the hundreds of religious
groups in the United States getting time on the station may present some difficulty. This is solved in part by broadcasters giving a limited amount of time to organizations representing major groups Protestants Catholics Jews. Does the religious broadcaster pay for this time for the most part he does for more than half of the broadcast time devoted to religion is paid for at full commercial rates unheard of your say no for the demand on limited facilities is great and the people as well as self-imposed codes do not recommend it. The charged rates continue. What price proselytizing. It is a high one indeed and more than in dollars and cents alone for because the program bears the label religion. Those behind the microphones often think this sufficient that no undue concern need be given programming and production techniques. Consequently the loss may be greater in the long run. We expand on this point as we ask Dr. S Franklin Mack executive director of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America. This has been held if I may use the term circumspect for an awful long time. The
attitude of religious folk in broadcasting and the end product of religious broadcasting. No you're concerned with ethics you're concerned with giving the public what it wants and you're concerned in leading the public. Now is there a disproportionate amount of broadcasting on the religious side done in specific religious services. Should there be more done in small r religion broadcasts. Well you raise a very interesting point here because we happen to feel that religion concerns all of life and that pains us to have designated as religious or thought of as being the only broadcast that have religious significance those that have a big are religious such as a broadcast of a devotional program or something of that sort. Now those broadcasts are important and I'm coming to feel that well done broadcasts on radio and TV aimed at people who are already converted Christians are kind of like vitamins fed to people who are already
well it is not important but our feeling is that. Radio and TV afford an opportunity to reach people that the churches cannot reach as well in any other way and that therefore it ought to use radio TV in an attempt to serve people who cannot be served in in other ways as well. This means the people who for whatever reason don't normally attend church may have been born into Christian homes are Jewish or Catholic homes but I've been neglectful of religion or people who are just an interested think they can get along without it but who have from time to time problems that they can't solve in their own strength. Religion ought to be reaching out and trying to find a point of contact with these people through the use of all of the devices open to radio and TV. Then what we would like the church people to do. His directing lies the fact that many of the programs that are on the air which are not labeled religious at all have deep religious significance that if they were to discuss them they
would find you know that they portray an essentially Christian or religious motivation or attitude toward life or that they actually portray a kind of life which is antithetical to religion let alone Christianity. I mean the kind of thing that the kind of program that seems to say that the end justifies the means or that success in life is measured by possessions or adulation or fame or money or status or any of these things and there are thousands of broadcasts as there are articles and books that say this and people just more or less accept it as being Doesn't everybody believe this. Well sorry the Christian religion doesn't believe this although there are many people going to church that have never thought of it in that way. If religious programs are to deal with all of life. Listen now to the Reverend William Lynch of Georgetown University author of the image industries as he discusses this
point in relation to his book. We asked Father Lynch about the kind of image being broadcast by radio and television. Is it a synthetic image a dishonest image or what. I do think that you're proposing an enormous question which And it's taken me a whole book to try to answer. The thing and I have used a rather strong and critical language about the nature of these images. But I've got I've tried in each parish chapter to try to get down to the brass tacks of various critical centers of what is wrong for example and perhaps this is one of my principal chapters. The difference between. Fantasy and reality and the tendency of this industry to create a dream world to make us live in a dream world that is unrelated to anything going on nationally or internationally. And I have tried to raise some very
serious political and social questions one of them would go like this. I see have suggested in this book that our great political and military decisions are not things that are born out of earth from the top of our heads and single flashes but they come out of human beings whose minds and nerve end have been affected by thousands and thousands of images in the direction of fantasy or reality. And if we build a culture based on fantasy Well then in a moment of crisis we are not going to face moments of reality militarily or socially one. We won't want the truth we literally won't want it. And this is one of my suspicions. We may criticize the administration. What we should also realize that we are dealing with a culture which is wide open
to not having the truth told because it will not want another educator Dr. Edward Rosenheim associate professor of humanities at the University of Chicago expands on this point as he states his concern about that which is broadcast. It seems to me that in countering 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 the 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 are 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 his horse operas are morally all the villain is punished and the hero triumphs. They can point out that that they're impeccably patriotic that they're 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 alright in the end 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 on imaginative comic formulas that are repeated again and again that their notion of what is really exciting in a Drama is limited to the horse opera or the stereotypical private eye. And we have about 50 on each week. But their notion of tragedy is limited to a kind of death and Little Eva business that that occasionally occurs and that they're there. Their notion of ideas is limited to a few Pat Homan 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 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.
Who will do something about it. The listener apparently likes what he is getting. So do we continue this formula of giving the people what they want. The Reverend William Lynch reacts to this point. We have never educationally in the West proceeded on the principle. It is a constant principle of taking polls again. What do the people want. So my position is double. I do not believe that this is what they want because we have never gone about finding evidence for the fact that they want exactly this kind of incredibly inferior Western or Deadeye Dick stuff. But secondly even if by any most unhappy chance this were true it has never been an educational principle of man and of integrity in the West. That we should proceed educationally on the principle that this is what the children want. This is what the people want. We all have responsibility and we are not absolved
from responsibility by being big. The corporation is as responsible as the individual before much more responsible because it is creating a whole national culture. Well I'm still concerned with how you get this public to articulate if in fact this public is articulate. How do you get them to speak so that the polls do not distort their views. If the polls are honest that is. Well. I think that first of all we can be reasonably certain. I take this as an example of what can be done. I think we can be reasonably certain that there are 10 million pretty well-educated people in the United States. You see the people are always talking about the fact well they will say ah but father you do not be alive and they will say it rather patronizingly. But Father you do not realize that we are talking about a mass media industry. My answer always is when I am talking about the good and when I am talking about a a good audience I too am
talking about still about the mass media and let us not once again fall back into the use of words and cliches. There is room enough for a network in this country that would be a very high caliber indeed and could appeal to about 10 million people at the drop of a hat. And that would itself be a competitive force producing and legitimate pressure without censorship of any kind upon the rest of the industry. A network for good broadcasting whether it be labeled religious educational entertaining informative or what have you. But here we are all critics. Everyone has his own view of the situation and his own answers. Everyone can point to what he feels is wrong just as we asked Charles statement head of the communications program at New York University accusing fingers are pointed only to be met with other accusing fingers. In the final analysis who is responsible for developing this for broadcasting.
It's a beautiful question on a very difficult one. I think if I had to answer it in a sentence I would say the error lies in looking for that who that isn't any one person who is responsible for this. We either hang together or we hang separately. As a culture looking for the love villain of the piece is already a distortion of one's point of view. The point as you say the finger of scorn at the broadcast. This doesn't solve the problem. The problem is an endemic social cultural problem. It is that the degree of the absence of a sense of responsibility throughout pop culture from those who need responsibility most namely those who have great power right down to you and me who have seemingly no power but as individuals in this democracy still have or should have a voice right down to you and me the finger again is pointed.
The responsibility placed the Reverend Edward Bunn president of Georgetown University continues as he reacts to our question that this concern which we are investigating transcends broadcasting. I don't see any distinct grievous violation of the moral law I see or rather an indifference to it. I see mob law. And separated so to speak from the law of aesthetics. And I don't think that you can make a dichotomy and a program of both entertainment an arc between the laws of morals of the laws of aesthetics. You know other words you've got two problems and you've got the problem the moral problem. And then you've got the problem of quality now the moral problem would involve the abundance of advertising as I say you know grievous
violation but it's said it's a complete lack of proportion. Of course one of the things the moral law insists on is a certain proportion in human conduct. The levity of the programs the hate and exaggeration in the advertising. Be about psychology to make people love bhai and create needs. When when when those needs don't exist and especially in your great competitive program for various types of articles for instance take the cosmetics and hairdo and soaps. You say the glaring exaggeration which everybody a recognizes and perhaps smiles at or perhaps turns off the radio but
which in and say is the belittling of all laws of truth. And seriousness belittling the laws of truth. Well who defines these the public. Dr S Franklin my comments on this when he says it is true I think that if you give the public a range of choice as a certainty to in any large metropolitan area where the number of stations that the public that watches TV for example will choose among what is offered. But as someone who's very aptly said if you ask an Asiatic if he likes rice he'll say yes but he'll never know how much he likes it until he has sunk his teeth into a juicy piece of beef steak. We return to the discussion of specific religious broadcasting with Dr. Mack and hear him say. 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 in the air as a different media. You don't put a book on TV.
You write a TV play. You don't transfer a stage play to TV or to the movies you write a TV version or a movie version. And 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. Now as far as any restriction on US is concerned I think the network wants to be sure that we know what we're saying that we're going to do it in a responsible way. They don't want a pseudo religion as far as curbing us on the discussion of topics is concerned they don't generally speaking. We will try to remember that probably half to two thirds of the audience are not of our persuasion. Therefore we can't just go on and talk as though we were expressing the attitude of the whole public we have to speak as we would if we went as guests into the homes of people we had never met before and be a little respectful of their point of view one of their possible prejudices and try to ingratiate ourselves by being respectful of their interests and giving them something in the show that they can take
away even if they don't by our religious point of view. We discuss broadcasting generally and one of the broadcasters points of view with Dr. Mackey as we ask aren't you posing a problem though in the view of the fact that most of the broadcasters may concern themselves with the community and might feel a responsibility to the community but primarily they're businessmen they're out to make money. Sure they're businessman but a lot of members of churches until the church comes to them says you're a businessman in broadcasting and we want to discuss with you how you exercise your Christian story chip in this particular vocation. Even as we talk to lawyers and doctors and teachers until we do this we can hardly blame the broadcaster for feeling that. Religion and business in his case dawn makes or at least that the church isn't concerned. Some have talked about having a broadcasting czar to oversee the industry. What do you think about this Dr. Mack. God forbid. I mean where this is a country that believes in freedom of speech and freedom of religion the one thing we haven't quite accepted as freedom of taste. But as
far as I'm concerned I want freedom of taste I don't want somebody telling me what I can't see on TV I want the broccoli and turning it off myself or on. Well you mention the term taste and the term censorship and freedom earlier used the term ambivalence. Isn't this the problem that the seven commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission and Congress are finding that they would like to censor or censure certain stations for the type of broadcasting that they're doing but then on the other hand the first amendment suggests that there is there are certain freedoms to be upheld here. Is there any year out for this dilemma. While I attended the hearings in Washington and I think it is perfectly clear that the FCC has much more power that is exercised. The trouble has been two full one is there is a division within the seven member commission as to what the limits of its power are. And it may be Congress is going to have to say to the commission these are the things you are empowered to do in order to resolve
this split in the commission itself being interested in religious broadcasting Would you care to expand on what is the larger problem here of which this broadcasting issue is just a part of. Yeah and I have to do this with great humility because we're all a part of the same problem. I think that largely we have today we have not. I'm speaking as a Protestant instead of having a Protestant Christianity. Christine from the first century we've got a kind of a cultural religion and which respectability and good taste and getting along and making a living and supporting your family and belonging to the right clubs and driving the right car and living in the right neighborhood these are all a part of the good life. And he's not doing anybody any harm is about the sum of being a good Christian. If you have to cut corners in your business your job you justify this on the grounds that everybody does it and you're not doing anything differently. One of the men who criticized us for for saying
something about TV advertising he said you gotta recognize everybody else doesn't and I said well sure this is true but if you're going to excuse yourself on the ground that everybody else does it you leave us behind right at that point because we can't excuse ourselves for doing what is culturally acceptable if upon sober reflection we find that this is does not square with our faith. I say it this way that the church and stead of concentrating on the teaching of the Bible and the preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit in general terms has got to begin to help a schoolteacher learn what it means to be a Christian schoolteacher what it means to be a Christian housewife what it means to be a Christian. Executive or secretary in a business office take your own vocation whatever it is. How do I express my Christianity in the subtle ways of. Acting and speaking and behaving every day of the week. You can make the most pious professions of Christian belief and people looking at your
life say yeah that sounds fine but I would want to do business with that fellow. And what we're saying is what Jesus said in the original is by their fruits you shall know them. And we've got to put more emphasis on the fruit that validates our Christian belief and if the Christians would all begin by doing this in their daily business life it would affect the ethic of broadcasting. The Reverend William Lynch of Georgetown University returns to talk to this point. Here he reads from his book The image industry's about the pressure of the National Intelligence. We are a great people capable of very great things but the fact is that the truth of what is being asked of us 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 souls. 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
allies for 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 would be fought everywhere. The responsibility of our mass media within this in gauge when is so great that it is almost incalculable so powerful of their control over our most intimate and everyday images. And therefore over our final attitudes and decisions it is doubtful whether the present commercial match of the 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 the Reverend Celeste MJ Steiner former president of the Catholic Broadcasters Association and chancellor of the University of Detroit. He was asked about any specific Catholic viewpoint with reference to an ethic for broadcasting. The answer is yes and no. The Catholic Church and hence Catholics who understand their faith would not
differ at all in regard to the fundamentals of morality. But in the application of the principles here there might well be and there would be differences of opinion and as far as taste is concerned. And here is not involved as I understand taste here. What we might what we would call sin or morally good or bad here in the matter of taste I would assume that it doesn't make too much difference whether you're Catholic Protestant Jew or Muhanna then you can have good or bad taste. So in regard to what constitutes good or bad taste I suspect that there is clearly no Catholic viewpoint. We talked of responsibilities and suggestions for improvement and here father Steiner points a
specific finger when he says that the broadcaster himself assume responsibility. For the con and and the technique and everything his when he broadcasts what did by broadcast on his days. And if he doesn't assume the responsibility then FCC holds him responsible and he will not accept this responsibility then that he loses his license and then we don't have to worry then about the talent about the advertisers about the advertising agency and all of these other people. I'm very hopeful I'm an optimist. Optimism is not enough for good broadcasting just like good anything is not accidental. Religious broadcasting must concern itself with program and production techniques for in the final analysis. Religious broadcasting is broadcasting and as Dr. Marcus said if it isn't good broadcasting it isn't
Ethic for broadcasting
Critic of the art, part 1
Producing Organization
WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-st7dwk12).
This program, the first of three parts, focuses on criticisms of television programming.
This series presents interviews that center on issues in broadcasting and society.
Film and Television
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Cambis, John
Interviewee: Lynch, William
Interviewee: Mack, S. Franklin (Silas Franklin), 1899-
Interviewee: Bunn, Edward B. (Edward Bernard), 1896-
Producer: Cusack, Marianne
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-52-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:07
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Ethic for broadcasting; Critic of the art, part 1,” 1961-11-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 14, 2021,
MLA: “Ethic for broadcasting; Critic of the art, part 1.” 1961-11-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 14, 2021. <>.
APA: Ethic for broadcasting; Critic 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