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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Returning to the US media....

A full day back in the US and I am already impressed that all is not lost when it come to the US media. National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Srvice (PBS) are no BBC -- but then again, the BBC is no 'BBC' in the legendary sense of that image. Yet today I was reminded just how good they can be.

Boston is lucky to have two major NPR stations -- WBUR, which does some terrific news production and intelleigent discussion broadcasts each day (otherwise it is really an extension of the BBC, especially BBC World); and WGBH, best know for its TV operations (more below), but also a superb classical/jazz radio station that dabbles quite well in the news arena. In the general New England region the other NPR stations are high quality operations, but mainly as music outlets.

Driving along today I heard a number of excellent discussions of relatively 'hot topics', including the blog-led media rediscovery of the 10 Downing Street minutes that laid out the plan for initiating the Iraq war in 2002, as well as other stories that I say were well above the commercial radio norm. (If I have one complaint about NPR, and especially WBUR, is its constant badgering of viewers for money, especially since some congressional committee recently proposed a severe cut in the governmnet'smiserly funding -- oh, for the benefits of a license fee!).

Still another discussion focused on the role of contractors in the war -- and that discussion was tied to a broadcast on PBS/WGBH's Frontline this evening on "Private Warriors'. Frontline is an excellent "news hour" that broadcasts some of the best documentaries on TV today. Nothing on BBC seemed to come close to their shows -- at least not while I was there (except perhaps for the "Power of Nightmares" trilogy which was more an intellectual history than a news program....) Tonight's show was significant on a number of levels -- not only for highlighting our moral bankruptcy as a nation at war and the absolutely impossible mess we've created in Iraq, but also for what the contracting out of the war effort is doing to our sense of governance and accountability. For those with bandwidth enough to watch the entire show, I highly recommend it....

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