Public Broadcast Laboratory; The Whole World is Watching
- Public Broadcast Laboratory; The Whole World is Watching
PBL will conduct a wide ranging probe into charges of bias in network television news reporting. PBL's fourth broadcast of the new season is titled, "The Whole World is Watching," the slogan chanted by the demonstrators in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention last August. The networks have been accused of bias in their reporting of that convention. Network newsmen appearing on the broadcast include Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds, Mike Wallace, Sander Vanocur, and John Chancellor. The heads of the three network news departments -- Richard S. Salant, president of CBS News; Reuven Frank, president of NBC News; and Elmer Lower, president of ABC News -- are interviewed by Robert MacNeil of PBL. In Washington, PBL interviews columnist Drew Pearson, FCC Commissioner Nicholas A. Johnson, and Senator John O. Pastore (D., Rhode Island), chairman of the Communication Subcommittee. Also interviewed is John Fischer, counsel to Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and House Minority Leader Gerald Ford. "The Whole World is Watching" takes viewers behind the scenes at network news headquarters, and records the atmosphere in which split second news decisions are made under great pressures. The broadcast takes up the question of whether television news should be censored in the United States, with a report from London indicating that with fewer restraints than here, British television succeeds in conveying to viewers a deeper sense of reality. The British segment shows BBC interviewer Robin Day conducting a no-holds-barred interview with Prime Minister Harold Wilson. A segment on France reveals that news of the street demonstration during last May's uprising was blanked out from French TV screens. Executive producer for "The Whole World is Watching" is Av Westing, PBL's executive director. Continued description: This has been a bumper year for large-scale investigations -- exhaustive probes of the causes of "civil disorders," of the Chicago police riot, of violence in American life, of juvenile delinquency. Now in the works are the State of Illinois' investigation of the role of television in the Chicago spectacular last summer, inquiries by the Senate Communications Sub-Committee and by the House Commerce Committee into the relations between violence and television, and hearings by the President's commission on the causes and prevention of violence. Also impending is an attempt to discover whether network television news is biased and whether, if this is so, the network news should in some manner be regulated, or censored. Industry observers say that although no announcements have been made as yet, the inquiry is taking shape in the councils of a number of congressmen. Spurring the elaboration of an investigation is the still resounding echo of charges that TV networks, "captives of the Eastern Liberal Establishment," played the news from Chicago last August in such a way as to give the city's good mayor a black eye. Another investigation of whether television news is biased will be conducted by the Public Broadcasting Laboratory of NET's coast-to-coast network of 146 affiliated stations. In the PBL color broadcast, "The Whole World is Watching," Washington columnist Drew Pearson alleges that the networks were out to show the Democrats "in the worst possible light," since the heads of at least two of the networks, Pearson claims, are Republicans: Robert Sarnoff and William Paley. (Sarnoff for over a year has been president of RCA, parent corporation of the National Broadcasting Company. Paley continues to head the Columbia Broadcasting System as board chairman of CBS.) Pearson confesses he's not sure of the partisan allegiance of Leonard Goldenson, head of the American Broadcasting Companies. FCC Commissioner Nicholas A. Johnson charges in the PBL broadcast that the networks are more the prisoners of "the industrial establishment." "TV has failed to cover or has covered badly things which affect its economic interests and the economic interests of its advertisers and the economic interests of its suppliers, and the economic interests of others who share the basic philosophy and background and participation in the industrial establishment that broadcasting shares," Johnson says. "Broadcasting stations should not be simply house organs grinding out to the tune of big-business interests which own them, and their is some evidence that this is a very real danger today," he adds. The FCC Commissioner cites the case of a company, which owns a network and which "gets 18 percent of all its income from the perpetuation of the space program, from the perpetuation of the Vietnam War," and yet is "charged with the responsibility of reporting to the American people whether or not that war ought to continue, and I say there's an internal conflict of interest on the part of that corporation." Johnson feels television should have given the American people more background information on Vietnam. He feels TV is often inadequate in its role as teacher. "The responsibility of this industry is absolutely without parallel in the history of man. This country just cannot function when people are kept in ignorance and when corporate profits and pressures are allowed to intervene and keep from the American people the things they need to know." Johnson adds that "we have to know about the outcries, the angry voices of Watts, before they erupt into flame. We need to be prepared for what's happening in our world. There's no responsibility greater than that to my mind, and the level of responsibility we put upon a teacher walking into a classroom and working with kids, influencing their thinking and their future, is multiplied a million fold for someone who goes on the camera." (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
- Westin, A. V.
- MacNeil, Robert
- Salant, Richard S.
- Frank, Reuven
- Pearson, Drew
- Johnson, Nicholas A.
- Lower, Elmer
December 22, 1968
- American Archive of Public Broadcasting
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American Archive of Public Broadcasting Collection
- American Archive of Public Broadcasting > Public Broadcast Laboratory
Film and Television
Politics and Government
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Episode Number: 204