Michael Shamberg was practicing yoga at the McBurney YMCA in New York City when a name came sailing at him out of the blue. Top Value Television. The 28-year-old author of Guerrilla Television was delighted, realizing that Top Value Television would also read TVTV. It was the perfect name for the video group he was getting together to cover the upcoming Presidential Nominating Conventions. 1
It was February 1972, and Michael Shamberg wanted to put into practice some of the theories he had been formulating about alternative video. He had worked as a journalist for newspapers in Chicago and done brief stints at Time and Life. He had been to the '68 convention in Chicago, and in 1970 he took a half-inch portapak to the Conservative Party Convention, where he experimented with political interviews and event coverage, producing a "Media Primer" for Raindance, the theory-and-practice video collective that he helped form. He knew his way around the political scene; he also knew that if a group of video freaks went to Miami and did a good job, they could get major recognition because the networks and the national press corps would be there.
TVTV was not alone in seeing the conventions as an opportunity to sell itself. Anyone in America with something to sell came to Miami expecting to get a piece of the power and the money. As Timothy Crouse noted in The Boys on the Bus, "Hookers peddled ass, Mr. Peanut peddled goobers, pushers peddled dope, managers peddled dark horses, and the networks peddled themselves." 2 Why not peddle alternative media? Reporters had attended the first convention in 1831. In 1926 Lee DeForest, broadcast pioneer and inventor, speculated that what television needed was a live event to draw attention, such as a national convention. The networks later used the conventions to introduce their innovations--coast-to-coast network broadcasting in 1952, Huntley-Brinkley in 1956, the "creepie-peepie"