Good TV, Bad TV

WE'RE delighted to learn that C-SPAN - the you-are-there network - is adding a third channel. Amid the welter of docu-dramas, misleading sound bites, and tabloid TV shows that masquerade as news and history on today's video screens, it's heartening to find that unvarnished, see-it-with-your-own-eyes broadcasting is gaining some ground.

Yes, we know some people have been putting down C-SPAN since its inception - comparing it unfairly to Andy Warhol's movie of a man sleeping. And we grant that sometimes speeches in Congress and subcommittee testimony aren't the full story of what's happening in behind-scenes negotiations in Washington. But C-SPAN does represent history in the making. And it makes the process of American government understandable to ordinary citizens, as well as wonks. It's often hard to turn off.

Contrast that with the strange spectacle that the History Channel recently aired, in which quite a few conspiracy buffs trotted out their speculations - devoid of credible evidence - about the Kennedy assassination. Start a new network and call it the superstition channel, if you want. But stick to real history if you're broadcasting under that banner.

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