The Other Face of Public Television: Choking the American Dream

The Other Face of Public Television: Choking the American Dream

The Other Face of Public Television: Choking the American Dream

The Other Face of Public Television: Choking the American Dream

Synopsis

Government and corporate interference have robbed the public of access to point-of-view programming. Through subterfuge, suppression of dissent, and thought control, Washington (with eager assistance from Madison Avenue) has locked out the ?creatives? and the educators >

Excerpt

Shortly after World War II, a new kind of theater burst into American living rooms. Viewers were struck by its novelty. The movement and sound, and the awareness that they were witnessing happenings as they actually took place, enthralled them. “The magic of television”, it was called.

The rapid and wholesale integration of this novel communication/entertainment/ information medium into American culture brings into focus a question that is as yet unanswered: Can the alliance of democratic government and consumerist capitalism foster conditions that enhance a civilized society? The commercial effectiveness of television has been proven beyond a doubt, while formidable clinical, scholarly and hearsay evidence of its cultural impact has yet to receive acceptance.

The art of television began ad hoc, without much in the way of structure or rules. What television was had to be discovered in the doing. Early clues came in the form of the charm and intimacy of puppeteer Burr Tilstrom’s Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Original drama on an intimate scale came from Studio One, then on a larger scale from Playhouse 90. Experiments in aesthetics came from Camera Three. How things work in science and technology came from Adventure. Children’s curiosity about the outside world was piqued by Let’s Take a Trip, while explorations of the arts and humanities came from Omnibus. Key events in current history — the riveting live coverage of the resignation of General Douglas Mac-Arthur and the ArmyMcCarthy hearings — established television’s worthiness as an instrument of citizenship education.

Such high points were the creative achievements of pioneers exploring television’s potential. The makers of these programs were people willing to experiment, willing to dare, willing to risk failure. They were exuberant, mostly young, and full of hope. Today we look at them as examples of a spirit that we think of as peculiarly American. Veterans of television production refer to that time as “the great days”. For makers and viewers alike, in the years just after our victory in World War II, television was a vehicle for a hope for America’s future that was nearly palpable. What these independent minds accomplished was allowable within the structure of American broadcasting as it had been established.

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