Pro-Soviet Documentary Finds New Outlet
Turner Still Spinning His
In past issues, MediaWatch
has reported on the continuing criticism of Ted Turner's seven-hour
documentary series, "Portrait of the Soviet Union," aired in
March on his Atlanta cable superstation WTBS. Washington Post
television critic Tom Shales characterized the series as "a
postcard from Binky and Biff at Camp Whitewash." The Soviet
government, too, seemed embarrassed by the grandiose claims that Turner
made in his series: when the series ran in the Soviet Union, authorities
tagged it with a disclaimer which stated that the film gave an
excessively glamorous portrait of the country and failed to reflect the
self-criticism currently underway.
Encyclopedia Britannica Educational
Corporation dropped plans to market the series to U.S. school systems
amid the public debate, claiming they found insufficient interest in the
series to warrant a full scale marketing effort.
But none of this deterred Turner from
finding new ways to disseminate his views. Turner Program Services, the
syndication arm of Turner Broadcasting, just completed a barter
syndication effort to the nation's television stations. In all, 125 have
run or will run the series in the near future. Included in the list are
independents in the ten largest media markets. Among them: WPIX-TV (New
York), KCOP-TV (Los Angeles), WGBO-TV (Chicago), WLVI-TV (Boston), and
WTTG-TV (Washington, DC).
Most of the program or station managers
contacted by MediaWatch were unaware of the
criticism surrounding the series, and seemed unconcerned that the series
relayed pro-Soviet propaganda which distorted Soviet history. Said Steve
Friedheim, Station Manger of WGBO in Chicago: "I never screened it.
There was a fairly large interest. As far as its accuracy with Soviet
history I have no idea."
But at least one television official in a
major market expressed concern for the criticism the series received.
WTTG Program Director Glenn Dyer said that he had been unaware of the
controversy generated by the series but asked about possible imbalance:
"The fact that Turner had cooperated with the Soviet Union you know
you're going to get a little biased portrait. We knew that going in. But
we were told that 3 of the 7 hours (with anti-Soviet sentiment) were not
allowed to be broadcast by Soviet authorities in the Soviet Union."
That apparently settled some of Dyers qualms with the series and WTTG
decided to run it. Turner, though, misled WTTG-TV. The entire series
aired unedited in the Soviet Union.
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