Going back to Josh's question, I think we all know that society has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades; 53 percent of the work force are now women. We have more children than ever in day care, we have duel career families, we have bicoastal relationships. People are torn, they are going in all different directions. They come home, they're tired and sometimes they want to be purely entertained. When we're talking about competition among the different current media, we're talking in some way about what some people will call an antiquated environment. Because in a new environment, you come home you're too tired to watch the news, you'll choose from a menu which will give a whole list of entertainment things that you can do, whether they be something that you can watch or something that you can read or something--a video game, or whatever. And then, after a few hours, you look and you say, gee, I want to see what's going on in the world so you click on to something else. You may then click on to a documentary on that very thing you've seen.
This is what the futurists who are painting a much more benevolent future will say, that in a future world, you'll have all of this. But it will be menu driven by you; it'll be personalized, it will be customized. So that is also in terms of media literacy something to look towards: how we can look to the new technologies and in our own ways try to make sure that they are speaking to the needs that we do want so that the new technologies will not be just Pay Per View movies or video games or whatever? That they really will be able to provide us the kind of custom information we need. And newspapers, especially, very belatedly are trying to get into this. Networks and local news programs in some way are trying to get into this, but Adam Powell who works with me at Columbia is not here today, but yesterday he was here, and I have seen him give a wonderful talk to local news people regarding what the future of local news will be and in some way, it will be just a continuing news service twenty-four hours a day with rotating anchors. With people stepping in and out of almost a virtual reality news story. It's very futuristic, but it can happen. And it really will be interesting to see what the news organizations will do because they have a real good position to get into this new world to provide people with information, but information when people are ready. Right now, we're competing with so many things, not only what is on the other channels, but also with people's habits and people's fatigue. When things are menu driven it's going to just be different.
But the fact of the matter remains that when you read, other things are going on in your brain than when you watch. It is an entirely different process. And one of the things that media literacy has got to teach kids are the differences. The differences deal will sequential hierarchies or information. The differences deal with infinite complexity. The notion that there are spectrums of opinions on issues. Television pretty much has got to be designed so that somebody can jump in at any second and understand what's going on. There are commercials happening every seven minutes. The most powerful technology in America is being organized to create a break every seven minutes that in effect get you to stop thinking about what you've just seen. Well if a kid sees 350,000 commercial breaks by he/she graduates from high school, by the time they're eighteen. Haven't we done a pretty good job of conditioning them to a break every seven minutes? Haven't we done a pretty good job of condition them to ill-logic?
It's something important to think about and it may be is a good reason why you ought to send another letter to your senator and congressman saying that maybe PBS, even though it is somewhat commercialized as Bob noted, it still presents long periods of time which are commercial free and also support C-span which of course is another wonderful resource.
When I was doing Over Easy, a show on aging some years ago out of San Francisco, the then commissioner on aging, a young guy named Bob Benedict took us to task because--and I remember being in his office in Washington, we lost 4 million dollars of funding and had to go then to the CPB and then foundations and the companies and everything to get money. Because he, I remember his saying to me, you've got a thing scheduled on teenage pregnancy, he says, what's that got to do with old people? And I said it has everything to do with old people, old people have grandchildren and they're concerned about--I said do you think they just sit around talking about their rheumatism? That that's all they do? Well, we lost our money and I thought it was like the BBC, the government would put up the money and we'd do the programming. It didn't work that way in America. Do you have an answer for why that is?
One of the really frequent questions I get asked by my undergraduate students and many times by graduate students when I advocate more public funding and more public control and more public interest programming in the United States they'll say, "Well you don't want the government to do it!" They believe in the free market for a variety of reasons. And I have to tell them--and it's also interesting how often students tell me that we have the best, freest media system in the world. And I often ask them, have you ever travelled to any other country? They often say no. I say, well how do you know we have the best and freest media?--Well, I don't know, I was taught that--. Actually, they often hear it from people like Dan Rather, seriously, and other very powerful, well paid anchor people who in the middle of a debate or even when Ted Kopple does his Viewpoint series, They'll say, "Well, you know, we have a lot of flaws in our system, but we have the best, freest media system in the world." I mean, you will have the very people who most--are not maybe most advantaged by the system, the very people advocating that notion. But you can have in this country, still, I would hope a reasonably--you can have a commission set up and that's what CPB in part is supposed to do. That, you are never going to have anything that is utterly free of political control and in one way, all money is tainted, it's a matter of how much. You could have a system that is much more representative and does what 1967 CPB and PBS were set up to do, which is to give voice to voices that are often not heard in this culture and PBS is clearly not doing that as well.
The other thing that I would advocate, and this particularly with regard to children is, we haven't talked about the information gap much here. It's been said, well, you know it's great, the information super highway, kids, people will log on and get more information and distribute information. Still, you've got 30 percent of households in the United States without cable. A lot of households still don't have VCRs and many more households do not have PCs, let along modems--I mean, up until recently, I didn't have a modem at home. So, you know you've got a situation where when you were growing up Hugh, the difference between an information-rich or poor family wasn't thousands of dollars, I don't think. Maybe someone had a radio and a victrola versus not. But now that difference can be thousands of dollars, particularly to subscribe to on-line services, so what's going to happen increasingly, is that you're going to see that the more impoverished children are only going to have available to them the children's programming that's available on the major networks which is, clearly not quite as good as some of the other material that's available. And this is one of the reasons that I have advocated for some time a whole, second public broadcasting system, completely devoted to children in this country. You could do it for what the Pentagon spends in probably like three or four hours. And it needs to be available via broadcast means. So, I think there are lots of things we can do, but to get it done is rough.
The second thing I wanted to mention is that, as an artist in residence in about four states right now, I've been working with communities regarding journey into community legends, highlighting acts of courage and psychological triumph in people's lives. And I haven't quite got that far, but I'm working very hard to get people themselves to narrate the events and let professional or well trained performers re-enact them, or trained performers from within the communities re-enact them. It's still in an evocative stage right now, but it seems to me the idea of what the public wants has something to do with personalizing it. To me, it is, I don't think that's a dangerous thing at all. It is dangerous in some of the afternoon talk shows, which are awful to watch, but it seems to me that there is the universal in the particular.
People do relate to events in community lives all over the world, whether they know each other's language or not. Witness, Surviving Columbus, the reason that has power is not just only because it's Native American, but it does represent human survival. And this business of human survival against a faceless bureaucracy is the major--since Kafka--the major problem we've had with this century and I don't think we can intellectualize it by dealing with technology. I think it has to be dealt with on a personal level.
The Right Wing, for me has stole the thunder from the NEA. And I think one of the true criticisms of the National Endowment for the Arts is that it has not gone into the communities and done the very things that the Right Wing is attempting to do right now. Which is to highlight family life and community life, I think that has to be done.
I think that it's really important to understand that for instance, Tombstone to me was very offensive. It was a very downtrod movie to my people because the first thing they showed was defenseless Mexicans being shot, in the very opening scene. So of course, my children and my grandchildren if they ever see that movie will be told what they were and what they will be. And it will always portray that. In Surviving Columbus, being Mestizo, being Mexican American, the Chicanitos in the barrios were told again, you're no good! This is what your ancestors did to us. So we had to really watch the balance because we also have the feeling for Indian background, but what's going on--my, my main question is that how do we begin to fight this wave of people not voting, the apathy, the fact that we support Exxon Valdez to float 200 million dollars a year off our taxpayers money, but yet we highlight welfare mothers?
They call children of unmarried women illegitimate; who made that against the law to have a child? These are redundant terms that come up every time you see this--illegitimate children. If any of us here happen to have been illegitimate, are we going to get handcuffed? What does that mean? There's very oxymoronic things going on--like I said, the pervasiveness going on is the shrewd business acts that's going on and the fact that--my kids call Gingrich, Gringorich. Because I'm educating them about it. What the whole thing is about okay, and the insulting thing that happens to a lot of Native Americans, Hispanic women today, is that we are willing to ride this wave out without trying to say much about it. And hopefully it will crash lightly. But I don't think so, so that's really not a question, but I think--ABC is cutting off children's programs as we speak.
There was a time when General Sarnov had two networks, the red network and the blue network. And he devoted the blue network to cultural things, that's where the Met Opera broadcast started. Now, that eventually pressure led the blue network to be sold off and became the American Broadcasting Company. And there seems very little room now for the kind of things that were done up through the time of Pat Weaver at NBC when people said, you're not gonna put ballet on--the public doesn't care about ballet. Well, he said, they won't care about it if they never see it and he said, if we put it on, it might be worthwhile. And Pat Weaver did that, but shortly after he left the whole thing became, and it's not to say that there isn't some sense of responsibility on the part of network executives. ABC, that's my network, I know, but they've been very good about the literacy movement to begin with. I think they are going to get more increasingly interested in media literacy which is the comprehensive approach to it. They have tried in their programming to do things--and incidently, they, it is true, this is egregiously self aggrandizing, but I've got to tell you that the other two major networks, one owned by General Electric and the other by Tisch, only ABC is owned by Cap Cities who were broadcasters and they know the business and so I feel very fortunate to be associated with that network.