[The Columbia University Arts Center and the communication arts]

Sunday, July 10, 1955

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

A luncheon given by the Columbia Associates to announce plans for an arts center - would include the communications arts (movies, radio, and television).

Reads the speech he planned to give at this event: censorship in films. Public arts are getting the priceless gift of associating on the same level as the "fine" arts. Have to prove that the popular arts belong on this level. One of the functions of the university is to prepare man for intelligent discourse. We lack standards in the field because we don't have the long experience of the other arts. We don't have the words to define it. The public arts can be a bridge between the fine arts and the large audience they deserve.

Talks about vulgarity for profit. Contact with the older arts can save the popular ones. Need observation and criticism from trained minds. Also need cross-fertilization with other arts. Talks about a study being done by Columbia Broadcasting System. Create a want, not fill it. Discusses some articles in the papers about censorship. Governor Averell Harriman signed a bill intended to prevent the spread of pornographic and crime books. Signing it in spite of the objections of the well-intentioned people who are afraid of it. Seldes responds to this by quoting Walter Lippman: Censorship is a clumsy and self-defeating remedy for such evils (regarding sadistic crimes and sadism in mass media); sees no harm in censorship of the mass entertainment of the young - risks to our liberties are less than the risks of unmanageable violence; takes the view that we have to have some kind of censorship. Parallel view is also correct: this is a infringement in a slight way of the first amendment. Seldes goes on to talk about James Caesar Petrillo who wants subsidies for the arts. Federal government is not doing enough to help musicians at home as it is abroad. No obligation on government to hand out money to people to produce fairy tales. That is a feeling toward culture that might be changed.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70644
Municipal archives id: LT6452

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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