THE OTHER FACE OF PUBLIC TELEVISION: Censoring the American Dream

Roger P. Smith, Author . Algora $22.95 (344p) ISBN 978-1-892941-82-4

While public television was created as an alternative to the commercialization of the airwaves by private interests, it has become "a decorous government information service," mostly used to inform the public about issues of interest to lawmakers. So "public TV is yours the way a Stealth bomber is yours"—your taxes pay for it, but you have little control over its content or direction. The author contends that commercial TV sells products, while public TV sells attitudes, but both present essentially the same material, generated by the same people, only "differently wrapped." Smith, an award-winning TV producer and a public TV pioneer, ably traces the shift from creative, "atelier-style" public programming production to the modern "brokerage house" system, with the proverbial bean counters displacing the real artists, leaving the public with visually uninteresting propaganda. While Smith's argument is important and, at times, very well documented, his crankier assertions are distracting. Are all "animal shows" simply covert arguments for corporate neo-Darwinism? Are diatribes against "Affirmative Action" really relevant here? Most readers could do without not only the digressions but also Smith's custom of peppering every page with rhetorical questions he answers himself. Still, the closing plea for a National Alternative Television Production Center staffed by creative people and endowed by an independent trust fund is an important concept to discuss. (Aug. 1)

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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