The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, August 30, 2004

Fred Friendly and the Golden Age of TV news

Much as my enemy's enemy is my friend, anything which is Not Fox News Channel serves as a weapon - cudgel or toothpick - against it.

One such is the bright sunlit uplands of early TV, when the networks gave broadcast legends like Ed Murrow the time, freedom and budgets to produce news as it should be: independent, in depth, challenging pols and viewers alike.

On May 18, I noted a piece of such a-historical bollocks from no less than DEWDROPs' darling Bill Moyers.

And noted that
show[ed] I Love Lucy instead of the February 1966 Fulbright Senate committee hearings on the Vietnam War (thereby forcing out Murrow's producer, Fred Friendly).

(By a neat coincidence, Moyers was straddling the Credibility Gap for Lyndon Johnson's (as Press Secretary) at the time.)

I find that, by some miracle, I have a copy of Prime Time - The Life of Edward R Murrow by Alexander Kendrick, which has one or two further particulars on the Vietnam v Lucy tourney.

The session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in question was to hear none other than the Queen Mother of foreign policy gurus, George Kennan (p4).

The executive responsible for going with the Lucy rerun was CBS 'Broadcasting Group' Vice President John A Schneider: apparently (p32), the cost of pre-empting regular programmes was put at $175,000.

I gather that the existence of Schneider's role was signal in itself that Friendly was on the slide; no suggestion that the Lucy decision was taken deliberately to humiliate Friendly into resignation.

(I learn from this page of Edwin Moise's inestimable Vietnam Bibliography - which integrates dead-tree with online material - that transcripts of the hearings in question are online. The title is Supplemental Foreign Assistance Fiscal Year 1966--Vietnam: Hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 28-February 18, 1966. )


The Kennan testimony starts here (on p34a) and ends here.

I've not read it - but his statement starts out just fine:
...if we were not already involved as we are today in Vietnam, I would know of no reason why we should wish to become so involved, and I could think of several reasons why we should wish not to.

If Kerry was looking to strengthen his foreign policy team, he could do worse than kick our the Beers/Holbrooke/Berger warniks and bring in Kennan. Druther Corner...

Great quote from Dean Rusk, by the way, here on p13a: Rusk is talking about the start of US involvement in Vietnam, in propping up the forlorn French effort against the Vietminh.
The political movement by the French Government of that day was slower than the United States had hoped for, and the military operations came to the conclusion of the Geneva Conference of 1954.

That little party over at Dien Bien Phu, the proposal - on which Eisenhower was pretty damned keen, by the way (May 5) - for US air support, the complete failure of US policy: all airbrushed out.

(As I recall, Rusk was about as integral to formation of (for want of a better word) policy on Vietnam as Colin Powell was re Iraq.)

There's 700 pages of material to mine - including the usual stuff read into the record - newspaper articles and the like.

The Moise biblio page linked above - the good stuff mostly not online - has one or two interesting pieces of Congressional material that are: for instance, hearings of the Subcommittee on State Department Organization and Public Affairs (of the SFRC) in 1959, including hearings in Saigon, in which Albert Gore, Sr took part.

The My Lai Report of House Armed Services Committee is online, but not the 900 pages of hearings. The 1968 SFRC hearings on the Tonkin Gulf Incidents are - a different page of the Moise biblio; the August 1964 hearings on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution are not.

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