Complaints by special-interest groups ignore the real power of the public - selectively choosing what we watch.
Savvy observers occasionally note television's resemblance to the weather: Everybody loves to complain about it, but nobody can do anything to fix it.
This important insight, however, has done nothing to diminish the ardor of activists who regularly assault the nation's most influential medium of communications for real or imagined crimes. In a single week in April, for instance, representatives of three interest groups complained simultaneously of their under-representation in the TV world.
The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium released results of a study showing that Asian-Americans represented only 2.7% of regular characters on prime time TV, despite comprising nearly 5% of the national population. Karen Narasaki, president of the consortium, also lamented the fact that the networks reinforced stereotypes by showing Asians as smart and successful, while giving insufficient attention to dysfunctional individuals and families.
Meanwhile, a group of black TV professionals gathered at a session at the National Association of Television Program Executives to voice very different complaints. While acknowledging that African-Americans are slightly over-represented on TV screens, the producers worried about the absence of people of color in ?decision-making positions? within the broadcast industry. Karla Winfrey (no relation to Oprah) of Stone Mountain, Ga., said, ?It's difficult when you have people who make decisions who are not able or willing to accept the fact that not everybody is a hip-hopper or an athlete. There are people in our communities who are teachers, doctors, businesspeople, and we have great stories.?
Meanwhile, another significant segment of the population fretted over its shabby treatment by a major network. Conservatives, despite their increasingly powerful presence on cable TV and talk radio, feel excluded and disregarded by the longstanding preponderance of liberal voices on public television. Ken Tomlinson, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is committed to greater balance and diversity on PBS ? efforts that carry special urgency because of taxpayer funding for public television.
Do any ? or all ? of these complaints from Asian-Americans, blacks and conservatives deserve serious consideration?