Television: Who's Afraid of Big, Bad TV?

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Adds David Frost: "Americans tend to believe that everything foreign is better than anything American. But Sesame Street is the best children's program I've ever seen. It is true international TV. And it's a hit everywhere it goes." By next year, everywhere will include 50 countries, including Japan and South America and the Philippines. Foreign versions are being prepared; by 1971, it will have a side street­a program aimed at children seven to eleven, teaching reading and writing.

How far will Sesame Street's influence reach? Perhaps only as far as the door of the networks, and no farther. Kids get the TV their parents deserve, and unless the public raises its voice, there is little reason to expect lasting change. But there is reason for optimism in the fact that the U.S. has begun to understand, and to measure, TV's power over the imagination as well as over behavior. It is, of course, irresponsible to make TV the heavy in every social psychodrama, from urban uprisings to the Viet Nam War. Yet who can dispute that television­day and nighttime­is a child's sixth sense of the world? Watching a child wide-eyed before the screen, who can doubt the anecdote of Plato's cave, where creatures were chained forever watching shadow play, while the true world moved outside?

If U.S. children are to gain some undistorted knowledge of society, and of themselves, television must change. Producers could do no better than stroll by Sesame Street, or better still, watch the way a child creates works of power and imagination­by drawing flat but seeing round.

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