صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Whitehead, director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy, announced his proposed legislation in a speech Monday in Indianapolis. Broadcasters expressed concern over a stipulation that local stations be held accountable for the content of network newscasts they televise and that this be a factor in the renewal of their licenses by the Federal Communications Commission.

Whitehead said yesterday his bill would free broadcasters from bothersome red tape and paper work. It increases the time span of a station's license from three years to five.

In his speech, Whitehead used the phrase "ideological plugola" to describe what he considered partisan opinions broadcast by the networks as news. CBS reporter Nelson Benton pressed him for examples of such "plugola" in the interview.

"I don't want to cite any specifics," Whitehead replied. "This is not a vendetta against any particular individuals or any particular network."

Further broadcasting industry reaction to the speech from ABC network anchorman Howard K. Smith, who on his newscast last night associated what he called Whitehead's "threats" with the jailing of news reporters who refused to reveal confidential news sources.

"I hope it is not so," Smith said, "but it begins to look like a general assault on reporters."

Whitehead's proposals and "the courts' destruction of confidentiality" could lead to a time when "we will live solely by government handout." Smith said.

"Banners of outrage have unfurled all over New York with great thwoking sounds," said John Chancellor, anchorman for NBC, from his New York office. "I prefer to wait and see how dangerous this is going to get. I think it will be terribly difficult to put the proposal into workable legislative language. It may just die a-borning."

"We've been watching (our affiliates) ever since the first Agnew speech in 1969," Chancellor said. "I haven't seen even so much as a murmur from the affiliates. There is no revolt among the affiliated stations."

CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite could not be reached for comment.

[From the Los Angeles Times, Thursday, Dec. 21, 1972]


(By Jay Sharbutt)

New York-A bill the Nixon Administration has drafted is causing new ulcers along Broadcast Row here because it directly involves the three net works' 589 affiliated television stations.

It could markedly affect whether those affiliates carry network news and entertainment programs when the subject matter is controversial. It would require all stations at license renewal time to show they offered "reasonable, realistic and practical opportunities for the presentation and discussion of conflicting views on controversial issues."


And it would make individual stations specifically responsible for the balance and taste of a network program they aired. They couldn't offer a defense simply by saying they referred all complaints to the network's headquarters.

"God, is that going to cause a wave," said one stunned network executive who asked that he not be identified.

The ABC, CBS and NBC networks each own and operate five television stations in major U.S. cities. NBC also has 218 affiliated TV stations, CBS 196 and ABC 175, according to network spokesmen.

All must have their broadcast licenses renewed every three years by the Federal Communications Commission, although the proposed administration bill would extend this period to five years.

The measure was outlined in a speech Monday by Clay T. Whitehead, director of the White House Office of Telecommunications Policy. He said it wasn't a vindictive assault on the networks.

But Sig Mickelson, who headed CBS news for seven years, said the draft bill was dangerous in that it appeared to use affiliate stations as a club to hold over the heads of the networks. "And secondly, of course, it seems to be taking the first long step toward direct control of the news," said Mickelson, now a journalism professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Mickelson, head of CBS News from 1954 through 1961, currently is heading a 12-month private study of the relation of the media and the


He was asked what effect he felt the proposed legislation would have on network news coverage.

"I think it would have, to use that famous phrase, a 'chilling effect' on news," he said. "It would force such careful consideration of the news that I think it would force news personnel to be excessively conservative.

"In covering the news, you have to take a gamble once in a while. You can't play everything safe. And I think the network news divisions would have to play almost everything safe."

What effect would the measure have on investigative reporting?

"I'm afraid it would make it almost impossible to do investigative reporting," Mickelson said. "Because you can't do investigative reporting without getting into controversy.

[From the Washington Post, Dec. 22, 1972]


The election has come and gone, the cabinet and part of the administration have been reshuffled, but, alas, some things haven't changed. They have only intensified. One of those things is the administration's hostility to free and vigorous journalism particularly as practiced by the television networks. That hostility, evident throughout much of the President's first term, is now to be made operational through legislation currently being prepared for submission early in the next session of Congress. This doleful information was served up in a recent speech

by Dr. Clay Whitehead, director of the White House Office of Telecommunications Policy in Indianapolis the other day.

Dr. Whitehead's speech, which underlines the administration's antipathy toward the free and sometimes adversary interplay between government and the press, deserves a bit of careful analysis because his main message is as deceptively packaged as it is dangerous. The clues to the real meaning of the speech were contained in Dr. Whitehead's sharp exposition of the administration's distaste for the content of network news shows. That distaste-foreshadowed with remarkable accuracy by presidential speech writer Patrick Buchanan last May in an interview with Elizabeth Drew-found its most colorful expression in Dr. Whitehead's suggestion that network news shows contain something called "ideological plugola." He went on to describe "so-called professionals" in the TV news business "who confuse sensationalism with sense and who dispense elitist gossip in the guise of news analyis." Now come the fancy and deceptive packaging. Dr. Whitehead tells us that our First Amendment freedoms are being eroded by all of this and, therefore, the administration has designed some legislation to protect us.

The administration's remedy is to require local network affiliates to undertake more responsibility for what goes on the air. They will be required at license-renewal time to demonstrate that they were "substantially attuned to the needs and interests of the community" they serve... "irrespective of where the programs were obtained" and to show that a reasonable opportunity for the "presentation of conflicting views on controversial issues" has been afforded. All of that might seem unexceptional were it not linked both to Dr. Whitehead's extreme dissatisfaction with the news that networks have been providing and to the warning that "station managers and network officials who fail to act to correct imbalance or consistent bias in the network-or who acquiesce by silence can only be considered willing participants, to be held fully accountable at license renewal time."

The legislative package will come complete with incentives for docile local affiliates. Along with their new responsibility, they would get a couple of breaks they have long wanted: First, the license period will be extended from three to five years; and second, challenges either by community groups or by a hopeful alternative applicant for the license are to be made more difficult. It is a net horse trade. The local station owners would be given warm and gentle treatment in exchange for the requirement that they scrutinize the network's news offerings for "bias." At the same time, Dr. Whitehead's colorful language gives them a pretty good clue as to what kind of "bias" the government will expect them to have eliminated by license renewal time.

All of this reverberates with the echoes of Mr. Buchanan's conversation with Mrs. Drew on public television last spring. He sug gested then that the network news operations had developed "an ideological monopoly" over the information the public is receiving, that the views of "middle America" were underrepresented and that perhaps some kind of antitrust approach to network news might have to be developed. The new legislative package, as described by Dr. Whitehead, parallels Mr. Buchanan's views except that it cleverly substitutes indirect encouragement by the government of pressure by local affiliates on the networks for direct intervention by the

government. The intervention by the local affiliates has been packaged with three powerful inducements: first, the desire to have their licenses renewed by the government, second, the lessening of FCC control over other aspects of their operations and, third, the local affiliates' own general preference for entertainment rather than public affairs and news material from the networks.

The end result, however, is the same and that is governmental pressure to blunt the critical inquisitiveness of the network news organizations with the threat of governmental reprisals at the end of the line. Under the pretext of eliminating bias and in the guise of protecting our First Amendment rights, the administration is proposing to set the local affiliates, or failing that, itself up as the ultimate arbiter of the truth to which the public to be exposed. It is a move that strikes at the very heart of the First Amendment's notion that a people, in order to retain their freedom, must know as much as possible about what their government is doing for or to them and that any interference in this process by the government, however finely motivated towards the elimination of "bias," opens the way for an intolerable suppression of free speech and expression.

That tension is an essential part of our system with which Presidents from the beginning of the republic have been uncomfortable from time to time, but which they have tolerated because of their regard for the freedom of the people they were elected to govern. They understood that a free press meant a press that was free to inquire, free to develop its own professional standards and free to discipline itself. It is clear that the press does not always live up to the standard which editorial writers sometimes are tempted to ascribe to it. But it is also clear that one man's bias is another man's ultimate truth and that the founding fathers never trusted the governmentany American government-to be the arbiter between the two as far as speech is concerned. The essence of press freedom is that professional discipline and consumer pressures constitute the safest corrective devices. The antithesis of press freedom is for those correctives to be supplied by the government.

Those fundamental principles and distinctions seem to have eluded this administration. In its efforts to eliminate the healthy tension between the press and the government-by which truth is more surely pursued than by any other device we have the administration is endangering not simply the independence of network news organizations, but the fundamental liberties of the citizens of this country as well.

[From the Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 22, 1972]


There is a simple explanation of why the Nixon administration has resumed the offensive against the American television networks, both public and private. Almost nightly, those networks have the audacity to talk back to the man in the White House. They never give him a chance to appear to be all wise.

And there is an equally simple explanation of the choice of weapons by the White House in the new offensive. It is proposing legislation

which would require the individual stations which are licensed by the federal government to police the networks which are not. The individual station is always worried about losing its license. It can be intimidated.

Whether the White House seriously expects to get Congress to pass the legislation is beside the point. It almost certainly will not. And whether the networks need improving is also beside the point here. They could be a lot better than they are (as we have frequently pointed out). The essential fact is that the White House is threatening the three big commercial networks through the individual stations and threatening the public network by withholding of public funds.

What we are talking about here is not the survival of the networks as vehicles for light entertainment, sports and presidential performances. That is not in question. What is in question is the network as the producer of news programs which have a personality and dare to behave as public critics of White House policies. Specifically, we are talking about the evening half-hour news programs which are popularly known by the names of their stars-Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Harry Reasoner, John Chancellor, and David Brinkley.

These programs are a main source of news and opinion for the American people. Their nightly audiences are enormous. And they do not accept at face value every pronouncement from the White Houseas the White House would like.

Whether these programs are biased is a matter of angle of view. Those engaged in them consider themselves to be models of critical objectively which they sincerely try to be and which we think is largely the case. But what to a newsman seems objective often seems outrageously biased to a devout member of the Nixon White House staff.

The legislation which the White House proposes would convert American television into what the French had during the de Gaulle era-a vehicle for the views of government which would never be questioned or doubted-an official, government-controlled channel for government propaganda.

Before anyone applauds such a purpose and supports the proposed legislation, they should first reflect that de Gaulle type television always benefits the party in office. Are Republicans always going to control the White House?

[From the New York Times, Dec. 23, 1972]


The White House message to American broadcasters-commercial, public and educational-is coming through louder and clearer every day. That message is blunt: Stay away from controversial subjects. If you behave yourself, we will renew your license for a longer term. If you get Government funding, we will determine the kind of programs you will air.

Over the past two decades, occasional efforts have been made by White House spokesmen and Federal Communications Commissioners to interfere with the content of television programs, usually when they considered specific shows too critical of some aspect of Govern

« السابقةمتابعة »