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Equal TimeTelevision and the Civil Rights Movement$
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Aniko Bodroghkozy

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036682

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036682.001.0001

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Fighting for Equal Time

Fighting for Equal Time

Segregationists vs. Integrationists

(p.61) Chapter 3 Fighting for Equal Time
Equal Time

Aniko Bodroghkozy

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the debate over the extent to which network television was giving Southern segregationists and Northern integrationists “equal time” by focusing on audience reception of two controversial news documentaries about civil rights that aired in 1959 and 1961: NBC's report on “massive resistance” to school desegregation and CBS's report on violence against Freedom Riders. The NBC documentary report starred Chet Huntley and the CBS report, Howard K. Smith. This chapter first explores the discord and controversy sparked by the Fairness Doctrine before turning to Huntley and Smith's editorializing about desegregation and Southern race relations in their programs. In particular, it discusses Huntley's suggestion that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People should step out of the school desegregation battle because of its “militancy,” and Smith's commentary about the evils of segregationist violence and those who tolerate it. Drawing on evidence of audience response, the chapter argues that the sectional and political rifts around race were not being assuaged by television coverage.

Keywords:   network television, audience reception, news documentaries, civil rights, integration, school desegregation, segregation, Freedom Riders, Chet Huntley, Howard K. Smith

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