Good-News Alternative

THE venerable British Broadcasting Corporation will be presenting a new one-hour radio program at the end of this month, called ``Now the Good News.''

What a novelty! Will listeners, conditioned to expect first (and last) the bad news, be able to handle it?

A Jules Feiffer cartoon depicts a media-saturated woman overcome by reports of ``crime, violence, drugs, racism, sexism, homelessness, child abuse, the failure of the family, the failure of politics, sleazy entertainment, sleazy sportsmanship'' - and more. In the end, the victim of all this bad news cries out for an era when good news was acknowledged, at least as an act of faith - ``the golden age of my stupidity,'' she calls it.

But the BBC refuses to believe that good news is just a product of ignorant fantasy.

The producers of ``Now the Good News'' promise their disaster-weary listeners that ``the program will recognize the unsung heroes, the great inventions, the British companies doing well abroad, the teenagers driving aid to Bosnia.''

Furthermore, listeners will be enlisted to suggest good-news stories on their own - an additional act of unprecedented optimism.

Will the entrenched bad-news mood continue to prevail? That is the mood that equates cynicism with realism and assumes with apocalyptic gloom that the world is going you-know-where.

Perhaps the BBC's venture will help to break this spell of bleakness. For it is a spell - this habit of assuming that in history evil is more powerful and somehow more real than good.

On the basis of a 24-hour day and a seven-day news week, the BBC's new token hour of optimism will still leave 99.4 percent of its airtime available to politics, fires, floods, earthquakes, famines, and man's inhumanity to man, including the usual news quotas of wars, massacres, and serial killers. So there's no need to worry about journalists turning into Pollyannas.

In fact, one can only wish that ``Now the Good News'' may produce copycats in radio and a spinoff into television and print as well. In the meantime, even before the first hour is aired, it seems only sporting to offer three cheers for an enterprise devoted to giving three cheers itself.

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