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From Firing Line to The O’Reilly Factor
Thursday, October 22, 2015 @ 5:00 pm EDT
William F. Buckley’s public affairs program Firing Line (PBS, 1966–1999) offered a space for no-holds-barred, honest intellectual combat at its finest. The conservative Buckley hoped to convert viewers, but there was more to it than that. You could actually learn about other points of view, and thereby become a better liberal or a better conservative from watching the show. There is simply no equivalent on TV today. Conservatives have Fox News, liberals have MSNBC, and in more neutral territory we find C-SPAN. Overall, politically oriented broadcasting has become a vast echo chamber (especially on talk radio), with many tuning in largely to have their views confirmed—and to hear the other side vilified. What happened? How did we get from Firing Line to The O’Reilly Factor? And how can we possibly fix things? Hendershot’s talk will provide the historical, regulatory, and political context we need in order to begin to address these very difficult questions.
Heather Hendershot is a professor of film and media in CMS/W. Her book on Firing Line is forthcoming in the summer of 2016.