Network television has reached a point of confidence and dominance that permits CBS News correspondent Hughes Rudd to tell viewers tonight, "If you think television offers an alternative to newspapers, you're wrong. Television does some things well, but it cannot substitute for print."
Of course our man Rudd is "an old newspaperman" himself and some day not so far away, there won't be old newspaperfolk in TV journalism; they'll all be TV-bred and trained.
What worries Rudd is whether there will even be old newspaperfolk left at newspaper, and this is a central concern of "The Business of Newspapers," a CBS News special report at 8 tonight on Channel 9.
Rudd sees a key American concept - that a newspaper is not just a business like any other business - endangered by such trends as multi-paper ownership by huge chains and corporations, the use of market research to find out "what readers want" and then pandering to those yearnings and information monopolies like the one in Phoenix, Ariz., that refused to print an award-winning report on state corrpution.
Written and produced by Irina Posner, "Business" is scrupulous, provocative and, at moments, faintly chilling. Rudd predicts, for instance, that there will be virtually "no independent papers" left in America 20 years from now. Ignored, however, is the problem of cross-ownership of TV stations and newspapers and the tragic demise of the Chicago Daily News, which no amount of excellence or accolade could manage to keep alive.
Then, too, it's hard not to think of a certain lurking irony: CBS pauses to fret over the bigness of the newspaper business, but total network television revenues last year totaled $2,58 billion.
Rudd, refreshingtly lumpy and gruff as an on-air reporter is, like Bill Moyers before him, recklessly under-utilized at CBS News. One of Rudd's best traits is in actually responding to what people are saying as he interviews hem, and he can needle them effectively without applying a bludgeon.
At the Boston Herald-American, a saleswoman complains to Rudd that 50 per cent of the calls she makes soliciting ads for the paper get a negative response. "How would you like to be turned down 50 times a day," she asks.
"When I was younger," says Rudd, "I was." 'From Paris With Love'
It takes about three hours of public television tonight to prove that French television is even worse than American television. It is even worse than American public television.
Nothing on 'From Paris With Love: An Evening of French Television," on Channel 26 and other PBS stations at 9, makes one uncontrollably envious of French TV viewers - except for a block of nine delightful commericals. In France, commercials never interrupt programs but are shown in groups, an the attention-getting ploys used by sponsors are more festive and ribald than those used in the United States.
Otherwise "from Paris" features medicre songs staged so starchily as to recall Dinah Shore's esrliest TV shows, excerpts from slow-moving dramatic programs and "Paris By Night" a poorly filmed tour of night clubs from which WETA station management has exercised three ostensibly naughty minutes.
In the last hour, an excerpt from Roland Petit's dance work for the Ballet Company of Marseilles, to music of Pink Floyd, has an infectious dreaminess and tinkers engagingly with TV technology (hardly anything else on the program does). From a series called "Les Mini-Chronicles" comes a funny sketch about the "enemies" one faces every day and these turn out to be encouragingly, or depressingly, universal aggravators.
There is also an idiotic segment on frivolous French "inventions" - including a hotel with red and white running wine, from spigots in the bathroom, yet - that suggests a "Soixante Minutes" for dopes.
Even if some of the material on the program is on the dreadful side, much is nevertheless highly watchable, for the sheer novelty of it if nothing else. Fred Flaxman, who put this tour together, should have supplied viewers with more perspective and context on French TV and French viewing habits, but future projects along these lines are definitely to be encouraged.