No snap judgments, welcomely. No sniping--from the Old Left or the New Right. Englishmen Jeremy Tunstall, author of The...


MEDIA MADE IN CALIFORNIA: Hollywood, Politics, and the News

No snap judgments, welcomely. No sniping--from the Old Left or the New Right. Englishmen Jeremy Tunstall, author of The Media Are American (1977), and David Walker, a correspondent for The Economist, spent a recent year on the Coast, teaching--and they see California media as at once unique, typically American, and indicative of things to come. They take in California film and TV content--from ""hijacking and chase along the great west-bound highways,"" to the California life-style, ""a vital lubricant of consumer purchases."" They note, rightly, that movie production went west not for the sun but to take advantage of cheap land and labor; and they pinpoint the reasons why TV production and record-making followed. ""More stars now rise in the west,"" too--thanks to ""impressively strong family ties,"" among other unsuspected boons. And if Louis B. Mayer's MGM is gone, multi-media conglomerates are alive and flourishing. The new potentates are the agents: ""impresarios of the crossover, the profitable translation of talent and celebrity from one medium to another."" Meanwhile, ethnic minorities remain invisible. Here, Tunstall and Walker hone in separately on Hispanics, Asians, blacks (""Was the rise of San ford and Son--Norman Lear's adaptation of the British series Steptoe and Son into blackface--a harbinger of real change?""). By contrast, power is highly visible: ""the free video stories"" of Arco oil ""were taken. . .by 115 television and cable stations in the United States and by five foreign networks."" Other themes: the politicization of the California press, via the dynasts; the incubation of professional campaign management (because, for one, the frequent initiative campaigns provided full-time employment); the aggrandizement of the celebrity principle (viz. George Murphy and Jerry Brown--with sidebars on Reagan and Nixon); ""the simple facts of time and distance"" that propel news from east to west--and make California the source of oddball items. A sober, pithy, penetrating appraisal--partly on account, surely, of the detached, foreign perspective.

Pub Date: May 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1981