I do believe that the reason I'm involved in media education, not withstanding what I said earlier, even though I think that corporations and the government and Hollywood bear a great deal of responsibility. They are very difficult institutions to reform and in one sense, particularly with the government, I'm not sure how comfortable any of us are with reforming the government vis a vis the media in terms of censorship. I mean I'd like to see different people on the FCC. But I know that's a real hard calling for any of us to change the FCC around and you're going to have an almost impossible task to substantially change Hollywood around, particularly now that their markets, particularly for theatrical films and also for television are increasingly global. So they're not even thinking about a lot of their product with regard to an American audience. They're thinking about the huge profits they make globally.
So where can you make a change? The place where you can make a change is on the audience side much of the time and it's an absolute shame in this country that the average American spends about three hours a day with television and another hour or so with films and radio and add some more time for computer and other things. Except for computer, actually, most Americans get no, or next to no formal training at any point in their education about analyzing the media and yet in junior high kids a taught about analyzing poetry and short stories which are all very wonderful forms yet most people don't spend much time with poetry and short stories afterward.
So, this culture has always had great difficulty educating for leisure and it's a real dichotomy and we're happy to educate and have our schools used to educate for work. Try and sell computer literacy to school and you won't have much difficulty, try and sell them a media literacy and it's a harder sell. But, this is where I think we can make the biggest difference most of us most of the time is on the educational level and that's why I'm committed in that area and why I think most of the rest of us are as well.
You have certain trends driving the industry now. If you look at The New York Times for instance, which is obviously one of the leading papers in the country, you have an enormous number of soft leads. Terry Anderson who was a hostage held in Lebanon for so long, took a fellowship at our program and wrote his book Dead Alliance there. And he said he was struck at how different journalism had become over those seven years in captivity. The leads in The New York Times were softer it no longer was okay, who, what where and why. You know, you edge into a story. He was amazed by the tabloidization in even the finer newscasts and newspapers. And he was totally bewildered by how we run Presidential campaigns anymore. He said the media driving this campaign, the spin doctors, the alternative forms of media in which candidates are going around traditional journalism to get their message directly to the public, but at the same time being able to spin their message better than a phalanx of journalists asking hard questions. He said it was just a remarkable and stunning phenomena that he witnessed after coming out of captivity for seven years.
Journalism itself has changed. In working with a lot of the journalists in the industry, a lot of people are very uncomfortable with the changes. They're very uncomfortable with the fact that there is, that OJ Simpson can dominate so much time. And on the one hand you can say, well people are learning a lot about the judicial process, but that obviously is small consolation when you look at how that story dominates.
Are we getting enough spin stories regarding spousal abuse? Regarding violence? Regarding how we portray heros? Regarding issues of minority? Minorities, probably not. So it goes back to also journalism and how journalists aply their own craft. And some of the things that are difficult also within the industry in terms of even news is now cost accountable. It used to be that the news operations were owned by people who respected news as a public interest that they were publicly accountable. The other entertainment forms in the industry basically subsidized news.
In the last ten years, news organizations have now become owned by appliance companies or larger companies and the news imperative and the subsidies given to news are no longer there. News now itself has to pay its own way. That changes the way information is delivered. Bob's example of the elderly woman sued by McDonalds. That's not necessarily media conspiracy nor is it necessarily people are plying to McDonalds tastes and advertising dollars. That's bad journalism, that's just bad journalism that we do not have that information. So it does go back to the basis of journalism.
But what is frightening in this new world order we now have, most other countries are looking at American journalism. I talk with an enormous number of visitors from other countries each year. The American model of journalism is being imitated and held up as the model for other countries. But as these people are coming over here and seeing what really happens over here, and OJ is going all over the world by satellite, they're confused. They don't know what all this means. They come over here thinking the investigative form of journalism, the Watergate style of journalism is the strong point of our system that we can bring down these monoliths of power and that there is some sense of justice. And then they get over here and they really look at our local news, they look at our tabloid shows, they look at our talk shows and they find that they don't know the difference between Hard Copy, Current Affair and a news magazine and say 20/20 or 60 Minutes.
They don't know the difference and according to studies most American people don't know the difference either. They can't tell you. Most Americans in this country cannot tell you, given a certain fact whether they heard that of ABC news or NBC news or CBS news or read it in National Inquirer or heard it on a talk show because the filters are not longer there. So the journalism industry itself, I think, has to go through some change but there are a lot of journalists out there trying. And this kind of information has to come out to the audience so people can start distinguishing the different kinds of journalism they're seeing. And what is journalism and not journalism.
Now my personal journey on this is that for many years I was working to, for example, put out documentaries and so on, on the Vietnam War and then on the nuclear war issue. And I felt that we could only convince people how likely nuclear was is, how dangerous it is, how bad is, or how bad the Vietnam war was before that and so on, that people would turn around and change this.
I had a major revelation when I was working in an organization in Washington, the Center for Defense Information and we were consulting with the ABC show The Day After and we were providing information of bomb damage effects and our director met with the writer and so on.
At that time, you may remember the ABC show with Jason Robards about nuclear war. I was really excited when a hundred million people saw that, and I thought, wow, this will finally convince people to turn around the arms race and stop this madness, this insanity of heading toward nuclear war. After the show, I produced a TV spot with Paul Newman that ran following the show. And after that I was analyzing the poll data for a meeting we were having with Paul Newman and I was very disturbed to find that there was almost no shift in the support for the B1 bomber, the Pershing missile, that here we'd looked nuclear war in the face of it and we were just going right on building bombs as usual.
This really caused a major transformation in my life, because here all this time I had been working to just if we could show people how bad it is they'll turn things around, and then we do that and it doesn't turn it around. I went through a period of meditation and reflection and I began to realize something that I'd known before but hadn't come out in my work. And that is that in my personal meditation, I'll visualize what we want to move toward. I'll visualize what I want to have in life and yet not visualize what I don't want, I mean if you know what you want you head toward that.
When I was young, my father gave me a little card that he had printed up in the 1940's a saying that he made up that said, "Seek not to contest with evil, lest ye be taken by the spirit of contention rather concern yourself with goodness." Well, for a long time, I had trouble understanding that idea because you know, we had to fight against these evils, the Vietnam War, kids being napalmed, the nuclear war that could destroy us all. But I began to realize that maybe there was something to focusing on the positive, on creating an image of what we want to move toward.
Maybe people were just deadened by the deluge of negative images and needed something positive. So I said to Paul Newman after this analysis, "Why doesn't somebody in Hollywood make a feature film that takes us on an exciting journey into peaceful and positive future and you know, excites us with the possibilities for what we could move toward instead of just all this doom and gloom."
Well, Paul thought about it a minute and said something that leads right to this question about where do jump in. He said, "Arthur, I don't think anyone in Hollywood knows what a peaceful future would look like. Why don't you do it?" Well, the responsibility came back to me, why don't you do it? And I said well, how am I going to make a feature film. I've only done documentaries. He said, "Well, why don't you give it a try? Write a story."
Well that kind of started me off, gave me the challenge and started me off on a ten year adventure into working on beginning to go through screen writing courses. Learning about the media industry, finding a way to begin to jump in. Co-writing scripts, with Ned Bobkof whose here in the audience. We co-wrote this movie Oops, which now Robert Watts has agreed to produce with us and we're starting to begin to create media ourselves.
I think one of the exciting things is that young students growing up all over are very often getting into communications and media and saying we too can be storytellers, we can begin to create some of the media that can begin to turn some things around. And one thing I would like is for--we've seen some powerful films here at this conference and I think people are beginning to get the need to create some positive alternatives. Like we saw one that was called Surviving Columbus and while it showed all the horrible things that had been done to Indians over the years it left you hope at the end because it showed things were beginning to turn around. It began to show the positive. And I think that's one of the things we need to be able to do. To begin to emphasize the positive and what we want to move toward rather than just what we want to move away from.
Now contrast that with the series that ABC ran not too many months later called Amerika. America with a "k". Now I happen to know how this thing got invented, it was by Ben Stein who some of you know as both the boring teacher on the Wonder Years and is doing all kinds of advertising now for CBS and used to be a speech writer for Richard Nixon and a man of many talents. He wrote in his Herald Examiner column in the then, now defunct LA Herald Examiner an editorial saying, Why doesn't ABC do a program about what would happen to the United States if the Soviets took over?
Well, then ABC entertainment president, the name escapes me right at the moment, I'm sure Hugh knows who he is. Well, it was ten years ago. Went to Ben Stein and said, "Look, work me up a treatment." And he was ultimately paid something like a hundred thousand dollars for working up the initial treatment on Amerika. Which ran for something like, I can't remember, eight to twelve hours. No political brew ha ha comparatively. So, look at the contrast, here's something that looks like it might have a slightly left wing take or it didn't even actually, all that stuff was denuded and pulled out of The Day After so it was a much less rich media product, all it did was show the results. There was nothing about who started, I mean they synthesized this thing way down. And at the same time it had to be followed immediately by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense and so on. ABC has no problem producing an eight to twelve hour miniseries, many more hours about awful things will happen to America when the Soviets take over.
Now the other example I would point to which is much more in the contemporary experience is PBS. A gentleman stood right over there yesterday and got up and talked about a very interesting video, if I recall, that he had made about the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a lot of scandal within it and he couldn't sell it anywhere.
I wanted to point out, I pointed it out to him and I'll point out to you that first of all, PBS is tremendously affected by commercial pressures. The programs that get around, all around the country which are underwrit by large corporations, which feature, Buckley, McLaughlin, the business reports and all these things, they have huge corporate funding. Things that might attack or be resistant to or critique the existing social structure, can't get very much corporate underwriting. There are exceptions, labor things and so on that you can find money occasionally for, Eyes on the Prize and these things. But those are the exception.
So that the local stations all around the country, when they run programming, they are much more likely to run programming they don't have to pay for and that's free. And if you don't think that the Right Wing attacks on PBS over the last four years have had a huge chilling effect within PBS in terms of what they're prepared to produce, you're wrong, they are very concerned that if they put up something that is too critical of Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh or look at the Frontline thing on Rush Limbaugh recently. They're gonna get their funding cut.
So again, when you come to what we would hope would be our freest system of television distribution, freest of commercial effects and underpinning, it's tremendously effected. So, and yet it needs to be cut back because it's left wing we're told. And a number of us could argue how it's quite the opposite. So, again, where you enter the picture, for many of us it's at the familial level, its at the educational level.
But we need to keep our sights on this larger picture and that's part, you know, you can enter the educational picture and let people know about these kinds of things so that they understand that this isn't the terribly free media system that we'd like to believe.
I would hark back finally to the McCarthy period, I mean three hundred people were listed as being communists or communist sympathizers, including Jane Wyatt, who was on Father Knows Best. And she had to go back to New York to do Broadway plays for awhile because she had been Red Listed, as it were. And if you don't think people in Hollywood who are old enough to remember or who are smart enough to remember or have studied, they know that something like that could still happen again. And I would argue it's happening on a smaller scale right now with the Right Wing attacks on the media generally. It's not as problematic or quite as extreme as the Hollywood Black List, but don't think those things can't happen again in a free country. Who was it who said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." or something, and it's absolutely true to my mind.
I guess it reminds me of that book that came out a few years ago, A Hundred Ways You Can Save the Earth. Was that the name of it? It had very simple things that you could do. And of course a lot of us have been doing those for years, but as I'm sitting here thinking and listening to my colleagues, I'm thinking maybe we should come up with a list that we can take away from this meeting. Of things that we can do, actively, to pursue the area of media literacy. And I would submit three suggestions for that list.
The first one would be to act from your pocket book. We are a capitalistic country, we do run on money and rather than going down to the video store or Toys 'r' Us and buying Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Part XVII, for your grandchild or child. Be more thoughtful about the type of programming that you're looking for. This a directory that Kid's First has put together. There are other wonderful guides that recommend outstanding programs for children. And be a little more thoughtful before you plunk down the fourteen ninety-five or nine ninety five or whatever it is for a children's video tape. Act from your pocket book.
The second would be in terms of the issues that Bob is bringing up with regulation and the need to have perhaps some better representation on the FCC. I'm reminded of a friend of mine who worked in congress for years who constantly would tell me, Send a Letter to Your Congressman. And I didn't know, until talking with him in depth about this that working in a congressional office that one letter that comes in is assumed to represent something between one and ten thousand people. So you're not just sending one letter. You're sending something that is representative of many, many people, so it's important to remember to voice your opinion and your concern about issues. We're in a situation where we have gotten a certain point of view expressed in our House of Representatives and if you want to have another point of view understood and be heard, then you need to participate in that.
And the last would be to look for accurate information. Again, what Bob has been talking about with the McDonalds' incident which I think was stunning. I actually have read quite a lot of that, but you still gave me some new data. We know that we don't get all of that information in the mass media but there are other sources, the Freedom Forum certainly has a wonderful journal and I encourage people to get on line on the Internet which we're finding more and more at our office that when we want information that is accurately presented from the source, that it's an invaluable source for us to connect to. And, at this point in time, of course it's not regulated and so all the information that comes out comes directly from whoever is putting that into the system at the other end. Those would be my three candidates.