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tv   American History TV  CSPAN  November 22, 2014 8:00am-8:37am EST

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>> each week, "reel america" brings you archival films that help tell the story of the 20th century. 45 years ago, spiro agnew addressed a republican party conference in des moines, iowa. he argued the big three networks or biased against nixon administration policies. all three networks preempted
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their evening news to broadcast the remarks live. we will show you coverage by cbs. >> the following is a special broadcast on cbs news. >> good evening. we are broadcasting a speech live from des moines, iowa, by the vice president of the united states, spiro agnew. it will be delivered from the grand ballroom in des moines, iowa. the scene is in the grand ballroom where the state chairman of the republican party of iowa is introducing the head table guests. the vice president is attacking the objectivity and fairness of network television news, which he says is in the hands of a small and unelected elite.
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the vice president is due to appear within the next minute or two. this is a meeting of the midwest regional republican committees, which includes the states of illinois, indiana, michigan, iowa, kansas, minnesota, nebraska, missouri, north dakota, oklahoma, south dakota, west virginia, and wisconsin. at the head table will be the senator from oklahoma, the nebraska governor, the former republican national chairman. mr. agnew is leaving des moines after his speech to fly to florida tomorrow for the apollo launch. and now the vice president of the united states has been introduced. [applause]
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[applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, i have the distinct honor of introducing the vice president of the united states. he was one of our colleagues, the governor of maryland. in our trade, we say he has made it big. he has been referred to as a person who has made the vice
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presidency into one of the most fascinating roles on the washington scene. he has been an advocate of hard work, discipline, candor, and fair play. i think you could say he has maintained that there is nothing wrong with being patriotic, moral, and hard-working. [applause] our vice president has traveled from coast to coast from border to border in this country to tell a story he believes in and to tell people the way he sees it. this man appears to us tonight to tell you what he believes and he will do it and fairness and he will do it with candor. ladies and gentlemen, i am pleased and honored to present to you the vice president of the united states, the honorable
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spiro agnew. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank you very much. thank you very much, governor. it is a pleasure for me to be your tonight. -- here tonight. i intended to make all three of the regional meetings, but i had to scrub the western one. hawaii was a little far. i am glad to be here tonight. i think it is obvious that i did
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not come to discuss the ban on ddt. [laughter] i have a subject i think is of great interest to the american people. i want to discuss the importance of the television medium to the american people. no nation depends more on the intelligent judgment of its citizens. nowhere in our system are there fewer checks on such vast power. nowhere should there be more conscientious responsibility exercised than by the news media. the question is -- are we demanding enough of our television news presentations? are the men of this medium demanding enough of themselves? monday night, nixon delivered the most important address of his administration, one of the
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most important of our decade. the subject was vietnam. my hope at that time was to rally the american people, to see the conflict through to a lasting and just peace in the pacific. 32 minutes, he reasoned with the nation that is suffered a third of a million casualties and the longest war in its history. when the president completed his address, and address he spent weeks in the preparation of, his words and policies were subjected to instant analysis and perilous criticism. the audience of 70 million americans gathered to hear the president of the united states. the majority of whom expressed their hostility to what he had
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to say. it was obvious their minds were made up in advance, those who recall the fumbling that followed president johnson's dramatic disclosure of his intentions not to seek another term have seen these men in a genuine state of non-preparedness. this was not it. [applause] one commentator twice contradicted the president's statement about the exchange in correspondence with ho chi minh. another challenged the ability as a politician. a third asserted the president was following the pentagon line. others made clear their sharp disapproval.
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to guarantee an advanced the president's plea for national unity would be challenged, one network trotted out -- averill harriman for the occasion. [laughter] throughout the presidents address, he waited in the wings. when the president concluded, mr. harriman recited perfectly. he criticized the president's speech. he attacked the government is unrepresentative. he issued a call to the senate foreign relations committee to debate vietnam once again. he stated his believes that the viet cong or north vietnamese did not really want -- and he -- a military takeover of self get mom and he told a little anecdote about a very responsible fellow he met in the vietnamese delegation. all in all mr. harriman offered , a broad range of gratuitous advice, challenging and
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contradicting the policies outlined by the president. the president had issued a call for unity, mr. harriman was encouraging the country not to listen to it. a word about mr. harriman. for 10 months, he was america's chief negotiator at the paris peace talks. mr. harriman seems to be under some heavy compulsion to justify his failures to anyone who will listen. [laughter] [applause] the networks have shown themselves willing to give him all of the air time he desires. [applause]
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every american has a right to disagree with the president of the united states and to express publicly that disagreement. the president has a right to communicate directly with the people who elected him. [applause] the people of this country have the right to make up their own minds and form their own opinions about a presidential address without having the president's words and thoughts characterized through the prejudices of hostile critics before they can even be digested. [applause] when winston churchill rallied public opinion to stay the course against hitler's germany, he did not have to contend with
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a gaggle of commentators raising doubts about whether he was reading public opinion right or whether britain had the stamina to see the war through. when president kennedy rallied a nation and the cuban missile crisis, his address to the people was not chewed over by a roundtable of critics. who disparaged the course of action he asked america to follow. the purpose of my remarks tonight is to focus your attention on this little group of men who not only enjoy instant rebuttal to reach address, but wield a free hand -- to every presidential address, but more importantly, we have a free hand in selecting and interpreting the great issues in our nation. first, let's define the power. at least 40 million americans every night watch the network news. 7 million of them view abc. the remainder in divided between nbc and cbs.
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for millions of americans, the networks are the sole source of national and world news. in will rogers observation -- what you knew was what you read in the newspaper. we are growing millions of americans, it is what they see and hear on their television sets. how is this network news determined? a small group of men, no more than a dozen, anchorman, commentators, executive producers, settle upon the 20 minutes or so of film and commentary to reach the public. this election is made from the 90-100 80 minutes that might be available. the powers of choice are broad. they decide what 40-50 million americans will learn of the days events in the nation and in the world. we cannot measure this power and influence by the traditional
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democratic standards. these men can create national issues overnight. they can make or break by their coverage and commentary a moratorium on the war. they can elevate men from obscurity to national prominence within a week. they can reward some politicians with national exposure and ignore others. for millions of americans, the network reported who covers a continuing issue becomes the presiding judge in a national trial by jury. they have often use their power constructively and creatively to awaken the public conscious to critical problems. networks made hunger and black lung disease issues overnight. the networks have tackled our most difficult social problems
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with a directness and immediacy that is the gift of their medium. they focus the nation's attention on its environmental abuses, pollution and the great lakes, and the threatened ecology of the everglades. it was also the networks that elevated carmichael and george lincoln rockwell from obscurity to national prominence. nor is there power confined to the substitute. a raised eyebrow, and flexion of the voice, a caustic remark dropped in the middle of a broadcast. can raise doubts in a million minds about the veracity of a public official and the wisdom of the government policy. one federal communications commission or considers the powers of the network equal to that of local, state, and federal governments all combined.
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certainly it represents a , concentration of power over american public opinion. what do americans know of the men who wield this power or the men who produce and direct the network news? the nation knows practically nothing. of the commentators, most americans know little other than they reflect an assured presence, seemingly well-informed on every important matter. we do know that to a man, these commentators and producers live and work in a geographical and intellectual confines of new york city or washington, d.c. both communities bask in their both communities bask in their own provincialism, their own parochialism. these men read the same newspapers, draw their political
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and social views from the same sources. providing artificial reinforcements to their shared viewpoints. they talk constantly to while not a, thereby providing artificial reinforcement to their shared the points. [applause] do they allow their biases to influence the selection and presentation of the news? david brinkley states, objectivity is impossible to normal human behavior. he says we should strive for fairness. another anchorman contends, "you cannot expunge all of your private convictions just because you sit in a seat like this and a camera starts to stare at you." less than a week before the 1968 election, the same commentator charged the president nixon's
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campaign commitments were no more durable than campaign balloons. he claimed that. were it not for the fear of a hostile reaction richard nixon , would be given into, and i quote him exactly, his natural instinct to smash the enemy with a club or go after him with a meat ax. had this slander been made by one political candidate about another, it would have been dismissed by most commentators as a partisan attack. this attack emanated from the privileged sanctuary of a network studio. therefore had the apparent dignity of an objective state. the american people would rightly not tolerate this concentration of power in government. is it not fair and relevant to question its concentration in the hands of a tiny enclosed fraternity of privileged men
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elected by no one and enjoying a monopoly unlicensed by government? they do not represent the views of america. [applause] that is why such a great gulf existed by how the nation perceived the president address and how the networks reviewed it. not only did the country received the president's address more warmly than the networks, but so also did the congress of the united states. the president was notified that 300 individual congressmen and 50 senators had endorsed his efforts for peace. [applause]
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as with other american institutions, perhaps it is time the networks were made more responsive to the views of the nation and more responsible to the people they serve. [applause] i want to make myself perfectly clear, i am not asking for government censorship or any other kind of censorship. i'm asking whether a form of censorship already exists -- [applause] when the news that 40 million americans receive each night is determined by a handful of men responsible only to their corporate employers and is filtered through a handful of commentators who admit to their own set of biases. the questions i am raising should have been raised by
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others on the go, should of been -- long ago, should have been raised by those americans who have considered the preservation of freedom of speech and freedom of the press their special provinces of responsibility. [applause] they should have been raised by those americans who share the view of the late justice that -- learned hand that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered from a multitude of tongues. than through any kind of authoritative selection. [applause] advocates for the networks have claimed the first amendment right to the same unlimited freedoms held by the great newspapers of america. the situations are not identical. "the new york times" reaches 800,000 people, nbc reaches 20 times that number on its evening news. the tremendous impact of seeing
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television film and hearing commentary be compared with reading the printed page. before the network news acquired such dominance over public opinion, he said, there is an -- walter litman spoke to the issue and said there is an essential and radical difference between television and printing. the three or four competing television stations control virtually all that can be received over the air. besides the mass circulation dailies, there are weeklies, monthlies, out-of-town newspapers, and books. if a man does not like his newspaper, he can read another from out of town. it is not ideal, but it is better than the situation and television. if the man does not like what the networks are showing, all he can do is turn them off and listen to a photograph. networks have a virtual monopoly of a whole medium of can indication.
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-- of communication. the newspapers have no monopoly on the medium of print. a virtual monopoly of a whole medium of communication is not something democratic people should ignore. we are not going to cut off our television sets and listen to the phonograph just because the airways belong to the networks. they don't. they belong to the people. [applause] as justice byron white wrote, it is the rights of the viewers which are paramount. this power presents no danger in [applause]
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that this power presents no danger in the hands of those who used it responsibly. as to whether or not the networks have abused the power they enjoyed, let's call former vice president humphrey in the city of chicago. according to theodore white, television's cutting created the -- enter cutting of the film from the streets of chicago with the current proceedings on the floor of the convention created the most false picture of 1968. the nomination of a man for the american presidency by the brutality and violence of merciless police. if we are to believe a recent report of the house of representatives commerce committee, televisions presentation of violence in the streets worked in injustice on the reputation of the chicago police. according to the committee findings one network presented a , one-sided picture which in large measure exonerates the demonstrators and protesters. film of provocation of police
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available never saw the light of day. the film of police response was shown to millions. another network showed the same scene of violence from three separate angles without making clear it was the same scene. the full report is reticent and drawing conclusions, it is not a document to inspire confidence in the fairness of the network news. our knowledge of the impact of network news on the national mind is far from incomplete. some early returns are available. we have enough information to raise serious questions about its effects on a democratic society. several years ago, one of the pioneers of network news wrote that it is missing ingredients were conviction, controversy, and a point of view.
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the networks have compensated with a vengeance. the endless pursuit of controversy, we should ask, what is the end value? to enlighten or to profit? to inform or to confuse? how does the ongoing expiration for more excitement, more drama serve our national search for internal peace and stability? bad news drowns out good news. which is gresham's law. the irrational is more controversial than the rational. kung currents can no longer compete with dissent. one minute of eldridge cleaver is worth 10 minutes of roy wilkins. the labor crisis settled at the negotiating table is nothing compared to the confrontation that results in a strike. or violence along the picket lines. normality has become the nemesis
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of the network news. the upshot of all of this controversy is that a narrow and distorted picture of america emerges from the televised news. a single dramatic piece of a mosaic becomes the entire picture. in the minds of millions. the american who relies for television -- on television for his news may believe violence and lawlessness are the rule rather than the exception on the american campus. we know none of these conclusions is true. perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the government in washington, but in the studios of the networks in new york. [applause]
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television may have destroyed the old stereotypes, but has it not created new ones in their places? what has this passionate pursuit of controversy down to the politics of progress the local compromise, essential to the functioning of a democratic society? members of congress or senate follow their principles and philosophy are unknown to many americans while the loudest and most extreme dissenters on every issue are known to every man in the street. how many marches and demonstrations would be have if the marchers did not know the ever faithful tv cameras would be there to record their antics?
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[applause] we have heard demands that senators and congressmen and judges make known all their financial connections so the public will know who and what influences their decisions and their votes. strong arguments can be made for that view. when a single commentator or producer night after night determines for millions of people how much of each side of a great issue they will see and hear should he not first discloses personal views on the issue as well? [applause]
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in this search for excitement and controversy, has more than equal time gone to the minority of americans who specialize in attacking the united states, its institutions and citizens? tonight i raise questions, i , make no attempt to suggest the answers. the answers must come from the media men. they are challenged to turn their critical power on themselves, to direct their energy, their talent, and conviction toward improving the quality and objectivity of news presentation. they are challenged to structure their own civic ethics to relate their great feelings with the great responsibilities they hold. and the people of america are challenged, challenged to press for responsible news presentations. they can let the networks know they want their news straight and objective. people can register their complaints on bias through mail to the network and phone calls
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to local stations. this is one case where the people must defend themselves. the citizen must be the reformer. the consumer can be the most effective crusader. let me say every elected leader in the united states depends on these men of the media, whether what i've said to you tonight will be heard and seen it all by the nation is not my decision. it is not your decision. it is their decision. [applause] tomorrow's edition of the des moines register, you will be able to read a news story detailing what i said tonight. editorial comment will be reserved for the editorial page,
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where it belongs. should not the same wall of separation exist between news and comment on the nation's network? [applause] my friends, we never trust such power as i described over public opinion in the hands of an elected government. it is time we question and in the hands of a small and unelected elite. the great networks of dam aided -- have dominated america's airwaves for decades -- great networks have dominated america's airwaves for decades. >> vice president of the united >> vice president of the united states to the midwest regional republican committee meeting and des moines, iowa.
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the vice president attacked the objectivity and fairness of network television news. which he said was in the hands of a small and unelected elite. he challenged tonight the networks for a responsible news presentation and said he was not asking for government censorship. he said he was asking whether a form of censorship already exists when the news is determined by a handful of men. the vice president urged the people to register their complaints by mail. people are entitled to a full accounting of the networks stewardship. this evening the president of , columbia broadcasting system made the following comment. " no america institution should be immune to public criticism or to public discussion of its performance. we do not believe that this unprecedented attempt by the vice president to intimidate a news medium which depends for
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its existence on government licenses represents legitimate criticism. the public has indicated that it has more confidence in the credibility of television news. our newsmen have many times current commendations for their enterprise -- earned commendations for their enterprise. and for their adherence to the highest professional standards. since human beings are not infallible, they're bound to be occasions when their judgment is questioned. whatever their deficiencies they , are minor deficiencies compared to those of a press which will be subservient to the executive power of government. in our judgment, the performance -- leonard golden said said this evening " in our judgment, the performance of abc news has always been fair and objective. it is always the public who decides on the reliability of any individual or organization. we will continue to report the news accurately and fully, confident in the ultimate
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judgment of the public. " this statement by the finally president of the , national broadcasting company. the vice president's attack is an appeal to prejudice. mr. agnew uses the influence of his high office. to criticize the way a government licenses news medium covers the activity of government itself. any fair-minded viewer knows television networks are not devoted to putting across a single point of view, the present all significant views on issues of importance. it is regrettable the vice president would deny the freedom of the press. those who might feel momentary agreement with his remarks should think carefully whether that kind of television news is what they want.
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this is roger mudd, cbs news, washington. >> this has been a special report from cbs news. [kennedy assassination records] tim hwang onnd, congressional legislation predictor that uses data mining and artificial intelligence. sunday evening at 6:30 p.m., new jersey governor chris christie talks with newly elected gop governors on what they call the next chapter of their political comeback. saturday night at 10:00 on book tv on c-span2, former cbs investigative reporter cheryl attkisson on the obstacles she faced while reporting on the obama administration on sunday night at 10:00, the 2014 national book awards.


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