The monster's spell

McCarthy, Abigail

OF SEVERAL MINDS Abigail McCarthy THE MONSTER'S SPELL TELEVISION & THE ELECTORATE The negotiations are so secret," says the portly senator in Wagner's "Grin and Bear...

...Raposo pointed out that the decline since the days when corporations took pride in having their products associated with good programming (e.g., Kraft Theater) has been precipitate...
...The often striking intelligence of the audiences on the Donahue and Oprah Winfrey shows and the apparent earnestness of the hosts cannot conceal the fact that the line between private fact and public fact has been lost...
...All too frequently we see them interviewing heads of state, trying, for the purpose of making news, to force them into choices and definitive statements which, if they were to make them, would certainly jeopardize whatever diplomatic maneuvers they might be undertaking...
...He predicted that we might be preparing an electorate incapable of handling democracy an idea allied to Tuchman's statement: "I consider the main point of the Iran affair deeper than the issue of incompetence in government...
...It is the public's acceptance of the picture image without regard to the reality...
...20, 1987...
...Eighty-one percent of American TV films contain violence, reports Washington Post London correspondent Karen deYoung, as compared to 46 percent of British films...
...Television eats them up," she said...
...Or is there a kind of collusion here...
...NBC's Bill Plante, for instance, recently wrote an apologia for the reporters shouting questions at President Reagan at ceremonial events and "photo opportunities" an uncivil practice for which they had been criticized...
...The BBC refused to show four recent episodes of "Miami Vice...
...617...
...Impaired the brain cells...
...This is the result, she says, of our "visual which is to say a non-thinking culture" which has been inculcated by tele616 vision: "a great boon to the ill and lonely, but the degree to which it has impaired the brain cells of the general population has not been measured'' (New York Times Magazine, Sept...
...We smile, but we know it's not very funny...
...The British, although their surveys also do not show a correlation between violence on the screen and violence in real life, inspect American shows for gratuitous violence as a matter of course...
...Actors are employed for different days, even half-days, and have to be written in and out of the plot accordingly...
...OF SEVERAL MINDS Abigail McCarthy THE MONSTER'S SPELL TELEVISION & THE ELECTORATE The negotiations are so secret," says the portly senator in Wagner's "Grin and Bear It" cartoon, "only the anchormen of the three networks know about them...
...It determines more and more our choice of candidates for office and the persons we elect...
...As Sharon Rockefeller, for a decade a member of the board of Public Broadcasting, said in a speech last spring, even Reagan and Gorbachev had to call for a "news blackout" in order to be able to conduct business during their summit meetings...
...Raposo shares Barbara Tuchman's view that the choice of programs is ultimately being made by an audience already damaged in perception by television viewing...
...They are also cutting the number of American series shown in their prime time...
...He had seen the film First Blood on television...
...Another effect of television about which I have written is the way in which "a callous disregard for privacy is cheapening our common life,'' and creating real harm "a wearing away of reticence, a coarsening of fiber, and a blunting of the sense of what is fit and what is not" (The Catholic Bulletin, September 30, 1982...
...One of the advantages of living a fairly long time something I share with Barbara Tuchman is that one can see the results of change...
...Pat Collins, who has been a reporter and editor for all three networks, pleaded for the sponsorship of just one hour a week of creative programming...
...Television personalities often deplore the situation but plead helplessness...
...Spokesmen for the industry deny this, but common sense tells us so...
...We have been a nation accustomed to violence a nation of gunbearers, if not gunslingers but surely the ingesting of hour after hour of violence, much of it gratuitous, is making us more violent and teaching our young the techniques of violence...
...Anchormen do affect foreign policy...
...But are the president's one-liners, obviously prepared in advance, really news...
...The decision, reporters say, was influenced by the incident of the villager, who, dressed as Rambo, went on a shooting rampage and killed sixteen people in one small town...
...Although they had varied perceptions of the seriousness of it, all the speakers saw themselves as subject to the limits on creativity and selection of programming imposed by the commercial interest of the industry, and the technological conditions of production allied to them...
...It is close to the truth...
...When asked by the audience what could be done, all except Joe Raposo, composer and one of the creators of "Sesame Street," gave the standard answer: "Bring pressure to bear write the sponsors, write your local station...
...Rockefeller reminded her audience that television is turned on eight hours a day in the average American home...
...Historian Barbara Tuchman, who sees our civilization in probable decline, is bitter about it: "Today, television has become our monarch...
...This past summer I was cochairperson of a symposium on television and television writing...
...The "senior" writer doesn't write, for example, but concocts the story line...
...Readers of this column know that the effect of television on our thinking and behavior has been a preoccupation of mine...
...Surveys, she added, have made it clear that television rates higher than the family, organized religion, and the newspapers in having a direct effect on each of us...
...It was the only way they could get news, he said...
...We who are older remember when it wasn't always this way, when dare we insist...
...Douglas Kiker, NBC correspondent, saw a great shortage of television news-writers who could master simple, forceful, informative declarative sentences...
...things were better...
...Strong words, but perhaps not too strong...
...Advertising agencies make the money decisions on the basis of the number of viewers and the number of thirty-second spots which can be scattered among the most popular shows...
...Corinne Jacker, an Emmy award-winning senior writer of several series described the chaotic conditions under which a writer works...

Vol. 114 • November 1987 • No. 19


 
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