How much more of public television’s integrity can be sold off? A proposed documentary by San Francisco’s KQED–abandoned after its funding scheme was publicly exposed–provides a glimpse into a frightening future. In April 1996, the station’s marketing department approached the Robert Mondavi Winery, suggesting various programs that the winery could sponsor. One option was a one-hour documentary that “celebrates the life of Robert Gerald Mondavi,” the winery’s founder and chair, focusing on his efforts to make Mondavi wine “one of the world’s most renowned labels.” The synopsis KQED presented to Mondavi was gushing: “We envision a program that conveys Mondavi’s […]
KQED's Adventures in the Infomercial Business
What If Deadly Plutonium Fell on Your Country—and No One Cared?
Although you’d never know it from most U.S. media, that Russian Mars space probe carrying nearly a half-pound of deadly plutonium did not fall “harmlessly” into the sea in November 1996. It crashed into South America, breaking up into a fireball as it came down, according to eyewitnesses. When President Bill Clinton called Australian Prime Minister John Howard on November l7, advising him that the U.S. Space Command projected the wayward probe would be coming down on eastern or central Australia, there was a brief period of intense media attention. “Mars probe expected to fall within hours,” CNN was reporting […]