We donâ€™t agree with the drumbeat coming from Democrats and others that this weekendâ€™s Disney/ABC TV movie be pulled. Censoring such content is unhealthy in a democracy. ABC cannot afford to buckle under from Dem critics. The Dems pressure campaign, while helping to bring about some (much needed) editorial changes, appears self-serving. The Clinton Administration does bear some responsibility for the countryâ€™s lack of understanding about the rising tide of anger against the U.S. from abroad. The Clinton folks werenâ€™t saints. Think what they did to the poor with welfare reform; how their egos bungled getting us national health care; or how they hailed the passage of the lobbyist-written (and media concentration giving) 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Democrats, by the way, were openly critical of CBS buckling under GOP pressure when the network cancelled its airing of â€œThe Reagansâ€ in 2003 (parent company Viacom eventually ran it on pay cable channel Showtime).
TV movies have always been confabulated affairs. Granted, Disney/ABC should have hired writers who are politically independent. And they should have stuck to the â€œscriptâ€ of the actual 9/11 Commission report. But the real problem is that our media consolidated, ratings and right demographic audience targeted TV system isnâ€™t focused at all on providing the public with a steady and serious examination of the world. TV lives in a fantasyland so it can better generate profits from advertisers. The networks and stations have no real public interest responsibilities, thanks to years of scuttling FCC rules. Congress keeps giving the TV networks everything they want, such as billions of free airwaves. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and at the FCC over the years have given permission for the TV industry to engage in ever-lowering standards. Except for Newt Minowâ€™s sharp retort back in 1961 that television was giving the public a â€œvast wasteland,â€ broadcasters and cable companies have been given high-fives from a Congress satisfied with the system (meaning lots of campaign contributions and little analytical coverage of whatâ€™s really going on).
Rather than ask Disney to drop this docudrama, it would better if the Democrats called for a serious national debate about the quality of TV in the U.S. Iâ€™m not saying censorship. But they should be asking the TV industry to provide the public with more in-depth news and analysisâ€”locally and nationally. No more 22 minute evening news broadcasts or countless headlines repeated on cable TV. We require serious investigative reports and more time overall spent on examining the countryâ€™s myriad problemsâ€”and what can be done about them. The networks should be urged to produce TV movies and series that are derived from (dare I say it) literature. TV should be asked to embrace young writers and other creators from diverse perspectives and backgrounds to develop programming that changes the dumbing down formula of television. [Are they coming to take me away yet!].
The Demsâ€”and the GOPâ€”should also call for public policies that ensure the public can receive a more diverse stream of content. They means network neutrality for the Internet, along with new rules that prevent the broadcast, cable, and satellite business from being TV gatekeepers. The TV conglomerates must be required to pass thru to viewers and users all news and public affairs programming–especially in this era of interactive digital media (such as video on demand, etc).
Ultimately, we need a more informed U.S. public if we are to better understand the real path to 9/11, so many other critical issues, and what we must do to address them. That should be the drumbeat of the DNC and others.
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