Television is a business, and viewers should be sure to regard it as such, Donald Carswell '50, a National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) financial executive, told an Eliot House audience last night.
Responding to a question of why television offers little in the way of "intellectual programming," Carswell said, "The problem is economic."
"Over the years we have put on programs which are well done and intelligent," he said. "Some are successful. Most are not. Opera is hopeless."
Carswell concentrated on the financial aspects of the television industry. "The quality of shows is subjective. We are selling a product. That product is not the show, but the audience. If a show attracts a large audience, we will run it," Carswell said.
The networks are not the place to make a great deal of money, Carswell said. Station owners make the highest profit--sometimes as much as 40 cents on a dollar, he added.
When asked about the educational possibilities of television, Carswell answered that "the job of television is not defined as upgrading the intellect of the American people."
"I don't expect you to watch most popular shows, but you do not represent most of America," Carswell--who won the Dana Reed Prize for undergraduate writing while at Harvard--added.
Carswell added a personal note about the value of a Harvard education. "I went to business school because going to cocktail parties was the only thing I was qualified to do when I graduated," he said.