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By mid-1970, it was clear that Agnew's comments were not isolated expressions of the new administration's desire to exert a moderating influence on American television and culture.
filtered through a handful of commentators who admit to their own set of biases." If the evening news showed images of protesters and urban violence, Agnew argued that this was a function of biased newsmen working for undemocratic and insulated TV news operations.
If viewers were upset by continuing pictures of campus unrest, antiwar marches, lawlessness on picket lines, police brutality, and the apparent bankruptcy of the American political system, these were only new stereotypes created "in the studios of the networks in New York" by a "small and unelected elite." In Agnew's view, much of the racial violence in the United States was a result of network glorification of "embittered" black radicals.
In words reminiscent of those used to ban Paul Robeson decades earlier, Agnew railed against newsmen who elevated Stokely Carmichael "from obscurity to national prominence." Instead of recognizing such anger as an expression of black frustration and social impotence, the Vice-President assailed television news for giving the false impression that "the majority of black Americans feel no regard for their country," and for preferring "irrational" radicals over "rational" moderates.
In Agnew"s argument, the networks had decided that "one minute of Eldridge Cleaver is worth ten minutes of Roy Wilkins." Most importantly, Agnew broadened his critique by inviting the American people to "let the networks know they want news straight and objective." He castigated network executives, and then reminded them of the power of the president in matters of licensing stations.
Although the motives were dissimilar, not since Newton Minow's "vast wasteland" speech in 1961 had such threats against license renewal been publicly pronounced by a government official.