Kudos to Howard Kurtz for his analysis of the Democratic National Convention [Style, Aug. 2]. It's appalling that the major networks decided for the public what was newsworthy and what was not during this, possibly the most important presidential election in modern history.
Fox's Bill O'Reilly used the convention as a backdrop for interjecting his opinion, which was neither fair nor balanced, and passing it off as newsworthy. MSNBC with Chris Matthews and CNN weren't much better.
It's disgusting that Americans, who need information, got so little from their public airwaves.
The biggest scandal of Campaign 2004 is that al-Jazeera is broadcasting more live coverage of the political conventions to its audience in the Middle East than the major networks are broadcasting to the American people.
It is a sad state of affairs when Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz could get major network airtime only if they were surfing on top of a beer truck cruising down a highway or having an insect-eating competition. They may want to address the American people in a policy speech, but the networks would rather show reruns of "Law & Order" and "CSI."
The networks should be ashamed and embarrassed; the public should be revolted and alarmed.
I, like Tom Shales [Style, July 30], am angry that political figures must conform to time constraints imposed by broadcasters.
Despite the complaints that scripted events such as conventions contain no real news, the news-value decisions actually shape content.
Without the straitjacket imposed by the major networks, John Kerry likely would not have had to rush his acceptance speech; lines that called for slower pacing would have been delivered that way, and audience reaction would have been different.
Medium is also message; delivery becomes part of content.
MICHAEL P. FRUITMAN
ABC News President David Westin [op-ed, July 30] defended the networks' failure to carry the Democratic convention on the grounds that the audience might not watch it. That rings hollow when the programming offered instead is a warmed-over pile of garbage.
And when I did find a major network carrying the convention, I was more likely to get some idiot with a wireless microphone interviewing a Republican spin artist than a straightforward account of what was happening on the floor or a substantive interview with a key figure.
One thing that has been forgotten is that the airwaves belong to the American people. Those who use the commons have an obligation to present responsible accounts of events of importance to the country. A compliant administration is letting the networks ignore this obligation.
SHELTON F. LANKFORD
David Westin is rather disingenuous. Just because people he knows have DSL and cable TV, he assumes that the responsibility of the broadcast networks for keeping the public informed is becoming obsolete.
Not everyone can afford cable. Some must choose between paying the cable bill and paying the water bill.
Cable and Internet come to our homes through privately owned telecommunications lines. The networks come through the publicly owned broadcast spectrum. In exchange for use of the airwaves, the networks used to be required to carry public service programming. This is a valuable resource. Is it really too much to ask that television networks keep their side of the bargain and use these public airwaves for the public good?