Despite Culligan's insider-background as a former NBC executive, this amateurish first novel is far weaker than other recent TV-network exposÃ‰ fiction: there's endless preaching here but little in the way of focused drama or credible characterization. Culligan's faceless, quasi-noble hero is Patrick Kaplan, the new head of the UBS network, a division of Global Communications. And at first Patrick's interest centers on the Ratings: together with Research Director Dr. Ellis Coughlin, he plans to make public the unreliability of the ""Norton"" ratings, to battle the ""sweeps syndrome,"" perhaps even to rig the ratings (""by a variation of what was done to influence the best-seller lists of a certain newspaper"") to dramatize the system's fakeries. But, though the ratings issues are chewed over verbosely, Patrick is soon moving towards an even bigger trend-change: ""there may be box office in, of all things, virtue""--an idea which is put to the test when super-noble Harold Gallaher, about-to-retire head of UBS news, reveals his plan to speak out about the Evils and Conspiracies in the nuclear/industrial/media complex. (Gallaher links this conspiracy--most dangerous in the potential use of satellite television--with the ""soul suicide of the White world."") Will Patrick allow Gallaher to be heard, or will he side with cartoon-villain Loucas, the conglomerate type who ruthlessly uses fallen women and foul play to control the network? Well, after some sex-and-redemption with Loucas' top courtesan (""The name of another lady came to mind as I watched you sobbing. It was Mary Magdalene""), Patrick comes down on the side of the longwinded angels--with a speech against world hunger that slides into the most banal sort of self-help/inspirational rhetoric. Throughout, in fact, Culligan's prose is glutinous with ""psyche"" and ""subconscious"" and waxen dialogue--while the general talkiness is compounded by digressions about Barry Commoner, corporate history, or supposed Irish/Jewish character traits. And the slow, static narrative is sometimes downright confusing, with imaginary networks inconsistently mixed with real ones. A few valid issues and many good intentions, then, but plodding fiction, occasionally verging on the unreadable.