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True reality TV, yawn

Matt Zalaznick

Could Tom Stone be as telegenic as, say, Donald Trump? Arn Menconi as leftwing witty as Jon Stewart of the “Daily Show”? Perhaps hard conservatism and soft circles of love will translate on the tube.

Well, telecasts of Eagle County Board of Commissioners meetings coming soon to a cable television near you will no doubt land somewhere between CSPAN’s dullest moments and the heights of “Fear Factor.” The county is launching its own channel in about six months, and its heavy hitter in a lineup that includes weather updates and reports on traffic at the airport will be the Board of Commissioners meetings.

Initial reaction falls along the lines of “what could possibly be duller?” You could watch three middle-aged white guys – however next November’s elections turn out – yap about zoning variances and master plans. Or you could watch cute young woman eating pasta a la scorpions or an ethnically diverse panel of legal experts – backed by glitzy graphics – yell at you and each other about Michael Jackson’s legal and other problems.

But which is a more important part of democracy? The county should be commended for putting themselves on the air even if they won’t have NASCAR crashes or even one of those pseudo-informative, fear-baiting news tickers scrolling along the bottom of the screen.

Democracy, most of the time, is slow and mundane, and sometimes petty and frustrating. Municipal planning is far less titillating than Todd Bertuzzi breaking Steve Moore’s neck on the ice, but you’re going to be a lot more bothered over the local roundabout being built wrong than whether some knucklehead millionaire hockey player has to sit in a penalty box for the rest of his life. Right?

Surely, “Saddam’s Torture Time” would probably score a much higher rating than the Sept. 11 hearings. But in our dull, plodding democracy, it’s all about transparency and that’s a service television can provide voters better than any other medium.

Newspaper reporters work their hardest to give objective reports on local government, including debate at the county that too frequently drops to playground levels of spite. But for those who insist the media is dominated by liberals or the reporters always get it wrong, it’s hard to tinker with live TV.

That is unless the authorities insist on putting a five-minute delay in the name of preventing any Timberlakian obscenities leaking through the telecast. Who knows, Arn might tear off Tom’s shirt next time he’s passed over for the chairmanship.

M.Z.


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