Vile machinations or just plain old shallow stupidity?

Watching the “debate” last night some observers (and I certainly didn’t watch) have opined that the senseless, dumb questions of the moderator were designed to distract attention from real issues and create a circus atmosphere so that the participants would look silly. I disagree; the men and women conducting these shows are too shallow to know the difference between an intelligent question and one that belongs on American Idol, so they make no distinction without noticing – no plan to it at all.

Unless it’s the network bosses. Ever since Old Greenwich’s (and my friend) Al Primo figured out that there was money to be made on television news if it were presented as entertainment, his “Eye Witness News” format: glossed up morons “interfacing” with each other and devoting all 20 minutes to heart-touching stories of lost dogs and children, there has been no serious news on television.

Today, you have people like Brian Williams pretending to be thoughtful professionals when they are in fact just Today Show transferees, and their bosses like it that way. TV news is about ratings and serious discussion of issues draws no ratings. So we get questions on gay rights instead of massive, trillion-dollar deficits. That’s not nefarious, just reality (“Reality TV”, to coin a phrase).

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7 responses to “Vile machinations or just plain old shallow stupidity?

  1. AJ

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=J3fhcUnCC1AC&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=FCC+history++TV+news+to+be+public+interest&source=bl&ots=tYgLRqI6KO&sig=Bwa7NPfQ1K8JehM0nbahC6qKSew&hl=en&sa=X&ei=e7oeT6nsGOn00gGT4bQH&sqi=2&ved=0CE4Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=FCC%20history%20%20TV%20news%20to%20be%20public%20interest&f=false is a link to pg. 73 of a book that explains the fairness doctrine that was in place from 1949 to 1987, requiring broadcasters to air a diversity of views on public issues. Scroll up to page 73 of the document for a history of the development of Eyewitness News. It’s time to bring back the fairness doctrine. Producers and writers get paid big bucks for their talents. For the money they get paid, I’m sure they can figure a way to work in the public interest stuff and make it interesting. If the republic is to survive, the public needs to be less dumbed down and more engaged.

    • AJ, I disagree. The Fairness Doctrine supressed free speech, not encouraged it. Stations shied away from anything controversial in those days because they didn’t want to lose money being forced to give free air time to those opposing views a chance. So they just stopped the conversation altogether.

      The doctrine is also outdated in this era of the Internet. I don’t know about you but I haven’t used television as a source for news in decades and, while there’s NPR, which tries to be balanced but is just too liberal to know that it’s not, the rest of radio is all sports and blather, hardly succeptible top a fairness doctrine, unless you’re a Red Sox fan and want to challenge some damn announcer’s prejudice for the Yankees. You can find all the arguments, commentary and news you might wish on the Internet.

      Besides which, it’s the Dollar Bills of this world who seek to shut down Rush Linbaugh by bringing back the doctrine. They don’t seriously think there’s a market for their liberal views – remember “Fresh Air”? – they just hope to force Limbaugh off the air by making it too expensive to host him. That’s a bad idea.

  2. Inagua

    This is why Gingrich has suggested un-moderated Lincoln-Douglas style debates.

  3. Nathan Hale

    The format for Lincoln-Douglas debates was: one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute “rejoinder.”

    That would really work today! About as well as Congress itself.

  4. anonymous2

    I had been working as a newswriter/newscaster in the top two broadcast markets in the country and at one of the big national radio networks for more that two decades before the “fairness doctrine” was finally killed off so I have some experience in the reality of what it meant.

    Sure, the requirement was to air a variety of views. But in practice managements wisely ducked the whole thing by airing no views at all, or rather no views that contradicted the prevailing acceptable liberal wisdom. You only have to look at the smarmy crap that passes for “news” on the “big three” TV networks today to understand this.

    Killing the fairness doctrine opened the way for talk radio. You may not like talk radio but is does offer a different viewpoint. Further, without talk radio AM radio would die throwing thousands out of work and leaving the ruling elite in complete control of broadcast information.

    If you want serious discussions of public issues turn off the TV and try the internet…until the government figures out how to censor it.

  5. Anonymous

    Brian Williams is a complete turd and despite all his earnest wannabee gravitas is basically on par with Matt Lauer. Did you see that Charlie Rose is doing morning tv now. Hilarious….. He takes himself so seriously……..but no one else does. What a hack!

  6. AJ

    As much as I like to argue, I have to concede you’re right on this one CF.
    Guess I was just waxing nostalgic for back in the days when news was
    news, and we all believed in America and thought we had a future. Back
    then there were only channels 2 through 13, so it seemed only right that
    licensees serve the public interest. With all the channels that are now
    available through cable and satellite that model no longer makes sense. I
    also concur that TV news is not worth watching, will never be worth
    watching, and haven’t watched it in quite some time . The next time I
    need some condescending snotty little sh*t like Anderson Cooper or Erin
    Burnett to tell me what I should think, then, perhaps, I’ll turn on the TV.
    Nowadays the news is there for one single purpose: to tell you what you
    should believe and what you should think — they’ll form your opinions for
    you. In last nights debate — I watched it online — Ron Paul was given less
    than six minutes speaking time out of the whole thing, and was asked
    when he was going to drop out of the race. It seems that NBC has
    decided for all of us that under no circumstances will Ron Paul be our
    next President. It seems that Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee a.k.a. Dumb
    and Dumber, or business as usual, is going to be shoved down our
    throats whether we like it or not.