[Liberty of expression and ultra high frequency stations]

Wednesday, January 11, 1956

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Starts off "I am in a bad temper." Seems like people are astonished at the liberty of expression that is given to me. What is this country coming to? Every man should able to speak his peace unless he is a criminal or a traitor. Are we making too much of the few attempts to cut down liberty of expression? More dangerous than a front attack - a hidden, dishonest attempt to undermine independence of mind. That is the cause of my bad temper. Talk about the play "Fair Play." Thought it would have something to do with liberty and justice, and feels like he was tricked. The play is about a man who was accused of murdering a girl. Says the plot has the "Caine Mutiny effect". Many books, television plays have an ending that has nothing to do with the happy ending -accused man is innocent. We get an equivocal ending - implication that authority is always better than rebellion against authority.

Talks about story in the financial pages about how it was the first time sales of Radio Corporation of America had gone over a billion dollars. Talks about General [David] Sarnoff, Chairman of the Board at RCA (Parent company of National Broadcasting company as well.) Predicted in 1915 that music and lectures would come through boxes in people's homes. This has come true. Ultimate target - instant and complete communication from one person to another - this we have not yet reached. Number of educational television stations has gone up from eight to eighteen. FCC workload has more than doubled and just doesn't have the money to do the work. A technical point - what to do with ultra-high frequency stations. Prospects for educational and cultural television becomes more bright. A moral point - is the station operating in the public interest? What troubles me most is so few people know what the FCC does. Represents the people of the U.S. who own the air and lend it conditionally. The condition being it should used in the public interest.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70552
Municipal archives id: LT7533

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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