2009-11-13 / Columnists

The Progressive

The Power Of Television
By John Paul Culotta

A few weeks ago many Americans were duped by parents of a boy who was supposedly flying in a balloon. For more than an hour I watched CNN reporting on the incident, while I was waiting in a doctor's office for a family member. All the people in the office were enthralled. We felt great relief when we heard the child was safe.

In Brazil a reality crime show re por - ter now is charged with murder. He was causing his own crime wave while lambasting the corrupt Brazilian police.

In Great Britain, a reality show participant had the nation concerned with her health, her death, and the custody of her children. This is the age of the Internet and yet television has such an immense hold on the people of all nations. American Idol still has more voters for their contestants than vote in our national elections. Many political fortunes depend and have depended on the images the candidates are able to present on television.

Who can forget the Nixon-Kennedy debates? Most radio listeners felt Nixon was a more formidable candidate. Television viewers picked Kennedy. It has been said Lincoln's melancholy persona and looks would make it impossible to run for higher office today.

Most of us receive our news today via the Internet or television. Newspapers are not the means of communication they once were. I still read two or three print papers daily. Most of us have given up that habit. Baby boomers (those born from 1945-1960) are the principal buyers of print newspapers. This is tragic because a newspaper gives a more complete synopsis of the day's events. I feel television news programming, especially cable 24 hour pro - gramming, shapes public opinion more than the Internet and newspapers. It is imperative that these programs have a complete and balanced portrayal of our political, social, and cultural life. Unfortunately, this is not the aim or desire of the networks. We are given shocking pictures, gossip, innuendo, and celebrity espousals of view points that titillate rather than challenge. News is now entertainment. Sex, scandals and sports are the bulk of the programming. In-depth analysis is rare. International coverage practically nil.

President Obama's administration is now challenging one cable station, FOX News, to conform to their motto of fair and balanced. This is a mistake. It ap - pears most viewers want programming that agrees to their political, economic, cultural, and racial prejudices.

Democracy is at risk when all viewpoints are not expressed and heard. We, the viewing and listening public, should demand a more complete expression of all viewpoints with respect to all the messengers of the viewpoints express - ed. Too often, on radio and television, people are insulted and belittled. The administration will not be able to change FOX, CNN, NBC, ABC or CBS. Only the public can do this. I recommend all of us to use the BBC and/or PBS.

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