Cover image for The other face of public television : censoring the American dream
The other face of public television : censoring the American dream
Smith, Roger P. (Roger Phillips), 1929-2011.
Publication Information:
New York : Algora Pub., [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 328 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HE8700.79.U6 S65 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Government and corporate interference have robbed the public of access to point-of-view programming. Through subterfuge, suppression of dissent, and thought control, Washington (with eager assistance from Madison Avenue) has locked out the ?creatives? and the educators >

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

While public television was created as an alternative to the commercialization of the airwaves by private interests, it has become "a decorous government information service," mostly used to inform the public about issues of interest to lawmakers. So "public TV is yours the way a Stealth bomber is yours" your taxes pay for it, but you have little control over its content or direction. The author contends that commercial TV sells products, while public TV sells attitudes, but both present essentially the same material, generated by the same people, only "differently wrapped." Smith, an award-winning TV producer and a public TV pioneer, ably traces the shift from creative, "atelier-style" public programming production to the modern "brokerage house" system, with the proverbial bean counters displacing the real artists, leaving the public with visually uninteresting propaganda. While Smith's argument is important and, at times, very well documented, his crankier assertions are distracting. Are all "animal shows" simply covert arguments for corporate neo-Darwinism? Are diatribes against "Affirmative Action" really relevant here? Most readers could do without not only the digressions but also Smith's custom of peppering every page with rhetorical questions he answers himself. Still, the closing plea for a National Alternative Television Production Center staffed by creative people and endowed by an independent trust fund is an important concept to discuss. (Aug. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Conservatives have branded public television as elitist, while liberals decry its dependence on corporate sponsorship. As with television itself, however, the issues are rarely black and white. Seasoned writer/ producer Smith and Ouellette (media studies, Rutgers) agree that public TV has failed miserably, but they disagree on just what it has failed to do. Ouellette sees in public broadcasting the potential to correct social injustice. PBS, she argues, has historically projected the views of the dominant (white, male) culture, while minorities, women, and blue-collar workers have been either ignored entirely or depicted as humorous or pitiable. She believes that public TV should embrace mass culture rather than trying to rise above it. Her ideas, though intriguing, are frequently obscured by social science jargon ("The history of KTCA problematizes geographic essentialism"), making the book appropriate for academic libraries. A refugee from the world of public broadcasting, Smith sees public TV as an art form whose potential has been repeatedly squelched by lawmakers and business executives. In sharp contrast to Ouellette's pleas for cultural sensitivity, Smith cites political correctness as a major obstacle to innovative programming. The authors' divergent views are best illustrated by their attitudes about the early-1970s program The Great American Dream Machine: Ouellette complains that the show poked fun at "the lowly, feminized masses," while Smith praises the show's "verve, style and originality" and intimates that it was dropped because of its controversial content. Smith envisions a national production center that would develop programs with backing from a national trust fund, unconstrained by government oversight. Smith's opinionated rant is more fun to read than Ouellette's work, but too much of the text has only marginal relevance to his thesis. The extraneous diatribes against affirmative action, local school boards, etc., make this an optional purchase for public libraries, though it may be appropriate for communications collections.-Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The startling argument of this book is that the US's Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS) has evolved into "state broadcasting." Smith (who began his career at CBS and then went on to a series of positions at PBS, winning awards from The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Peabody, and Ohio State University) contends that in both authorization and management, the principles that created public broadcasting as an independent alternative to commercial broadcasting have been compromised into nonexistence. Aside from the author's convincingly developed thesis, the book also provides a thorough and insightful history of the evolution of educational television to public television. The writing is dotted with wit and well-chosen quotes such as, "America's public television bureaucracy has obeyed the dictum of Marx (Groucho), 'The key to success is integrity. If you can fake that, you've got it made.'" The book is fastidiously documented and ends with hopeful and strong support for a 1997 proposal from Congress that would establish a trust fund for PBS. Highly recommended for collections supporting the study of journalism, mass media, political science, and cultural studies. All levels. M. R. Grant North Central College