Thursday, June 30, 2005

C-SPAN controversy still reverberates in cyberspace

Although some months have passed since the C-SPAN controversy erupted, there's an article on "Freezerbox", an e-zine that "aspires to create a forum for good thinking and good writing" in which the author, Russ Wellen, cites this issue:

"Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients"
MEDIA | 6.29.2005


Speaking of compromise, there are those that exceed even the Times in the precautions they take against offending their audience and the administration. Practicing something more suited to the wheels of your car in the hands of an auto mechanic, they seek to "balance." As Richard Cohen explains in his Washington Post March 15 column, "C-SPAN's Balance of the Absurd," the cable network scheduled Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt to plug her new book on the plum publishing venue Book TV.

History on Trial is an account of the unsuccessful libel case which Holocaust denier David Irving, whose feet Dr. Lipstadt held to the fire in her earlier book, Denying the Holocaust, brought against her in Britain. In a surprise move, C-SPAN decided, in the words of producer Amy Roach, "to balance it [Lipstadt's lecture] by covering him [Irving]."

While on the surface, it might make sense to feature the plaintiff, even if he was defeated, along with the defendant, some charges are too spurious for words. In a self-defeating--petulant even--concession to those who advised them of this, C-SPAN decided to instead host a panel discussion of the book with neither party present.

Does the C-SPAN triplets' parent company, National Cable Satellite Corporation, actually believe that one of the cable television systems it charges for its services will insist on a Holocaust denier having his say? The day hasn't arrived--yet--where it profiteth even Fox News to adopt such a stance. One can understand taking under advisement pickets, phone calls, or letters. But what is it about a deluge of email, which can be drained out of an in-box with the flick of a finger, that makes grown media executives cringe?

As with the Times, caving in to pressure only alienates your audience by compromising your credibility. Besides, backing down makes you look weak in comparison to, say, Fox. In fact, its slogan, "Fair and Balanced," may have sparked the balancing craze. If the media in question were a car, it would be rumbling around not on balanced wheels, or even equally inflated tires, but on one of those replacement donut tires.


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