Sep 1 1993

Importing British Censorship from Northern Ireland

An executive order bans from the BBC‘s airwaves direct statements by members and apparent sympathizers of groups the British government considers “terrorists.” The broadcast ban was applied to three legal organizations, including one whose president was elected member of the British Parliament. When soliciting pledges, U.S. public TV and radio hosts often boast about the British news programming that they bring to U.S. airwaves. What they don’t say is that such programming sometimes comes with British censorship. The British Broadcasting Corporation is a fully funded government agency, with a board of directors appointed by the Queen (under government recommenda­tion). No […]

Sep 1 1993

Petroleum Broadcasting Service?

Big Oil Keeps Its Eye on 'The Prize'

In The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, the eight-part series which aired in January 1993, PBS promised to reveal the real history of petroleum politics. But despite its impressive scope, and the wealth of archival film footage, the series is little more than an official oil company history with high production values. The eight-hour series purports to explore “the struggle for wealth and power that has always surrounded oil,” but as it moves from oil’s discovery to its place in the present age, the interpretations of Big Oil’s behavior become increasingly benign. The one-sided approach is […]

Sep 1 1993

When Is a Commercial Not a Commercial?

When It's on Noncommercial TV

A luxury car tools along a mountain road. A Citicorp bankcard gleams behind the slogan, “Anyhow. Anywhere. Anytime. Right Now.” Chase Manhattan advises viewers: “We believe that helping our customers realize their dreams is the best investment we can make.” Typical commercials? No — because they’re on “noncommercial” TV. According to PBS, these are not commercials, but “enhanced underwriter acknowledgments.” According to the Communications Act of 1934, they may well be illegal. The law forbids noncommercial stations to accept compensation for broadcasting messages that “promote any service, facility or product offered by any person who is engaged in such offering […]

Sep 1 1991

B.C.C.I.: The Scandals Behind the Scandal

A New York Times editorial (7/24/91) typified much of the coverage of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) scandal when it chastised “the sluggish reaction of Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and his Justice Department,” which failed to respond to mounting evidence of corruption in “what may well constitute the biggest banking scandal in history.” Mr. Thornburgh, said the Times, “owes the American public an explanation.” While the Times and other major media were pointing fingers at the Justice Department, they failed to acknowledge–much less explain–their own sluggish reaction to a scandal that had been years in the making. […]