Keep the television air alive with ideas

From recent testimony by a television producer before the US House telecommunications subcommittee.

As confusing as the picture may be, it is obvious that the new technologies have great potential for good. And for harm. Taking the latter first, it is axiomatic that in the proliferation of TV channels to the home the aim of every channel, without exception, will be to hook the viewer and secure him to the chair in front of the television set. Does this, then, mean that the average television viewer, who already watches from four to six hours of TV per day, according to most recent studies, will be drawn to even more televison viewing? Common sense would indicate that that is possible. And common sense would also dictate that such passivity cannot be good for the human spirit. It makes for a lessening of interpersonal relationships and for a diminishing desire to explore life outside one's self.

I know that you cannot, nor would you wish to, legislate against the amount of time people are able to watch television. Perhaps, after the results of the next 50 years are known, you may find it necessary to explore the concept of limiting the use of the broadcast resource for the health and safety of the nation just as, for the same reasons, there are maximum speed laws on the highways and minimum water standards for drinking. For the present, as I see it, the flag that is up is yellow. CAUTION. And so, it is the responsibility of everyone in public life to help educate our people to the fact that too much television viewing, no matter what the quality, can be dangerous to their mental , emotional, physical and spiritual health.

I am not unaware of how platitudinous this can sound, but the simple facts are that people are watching too much television now and in the future we will see them encouraged to watch even more; and that the continued apathy of vast amounts of Americans is antithetical to the needs of the nation, whose elected officials govern with the consent of the governed, presumably alert and involved.

The history of network television teaches that the concentration of most of the resources of broadcasting in three companies results in the kind of fierce competition which invites the kind of homogeneous broadcasting that allows for too little diversity and retards the development of new and competing technologies. With the explosion of new technologies, this history must not be repeated.

It would be good for the country to have the dissonant variety inherent in our pluralistic society find its way to the tube - people of all races and religions and life styles - the hotheads, sybarites and ascetics, the mockers and ''madmen'' - let's have them all.

Those who will disagree with the above, the forces to which I have alluded, have their right to expression under the First Amendment and they are indeed exercising it for the benefit of us all. Every bit of my. . . experience as a citizen of this great nation teaches me that the American system of government works best when the air is alive with the cacophony of conflicting views - and when, as a nation, we achieve consensus through the expression of those views.

It is my hope for the future that we can keep the air, the television air, alive with the sound of conflicting ideas - from every part of the land and from every segment of the culture that has something to say. If it requires regulation to guarantee access to the diverse voices in our land, this child of television would urge you to supply it.

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