- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

The White House has asked television executives for help in the war against terrorism, setting up an unusual alliance between the conservative Bush administration and the liberal Hollywood establishment.

Chris Henick, deputy assistant to President Bush, and Adam Goldman, associate director of the White House public liaison office, met Wednesday in Beverly Hills with the heads of CBS, HBO, Showtime, Warner Bros. and the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences.

"We all realize that the country is in trouble and we need to pull together as a group," said Bryce Zabel, chairman of the academy. "The very unity that we've all been talking about needs to cut across party lines and it needs to include the government and it needs to include the entertainment industry."

White House Deputy Press Secretary Claire Buchan said the administration "listened to the industry's ideas; discussed the resources that we have in the government that could help them; and asked if there's anything we can do to make it easier for them or point them in the right direction."

For example, if Hollywood is "tackling some issue and they need technical support or knowledge, we have experts within the government that can potentially help them," she said.

White House officials emphasized they are not pressuring the entertainment industry to churn out pro-American propaganda. But one TV executive suggested the industry was ready to spread a patriotic message after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I'm not sure that the word propaganda should be used in a pejorative sense," said the executive, who attended Wednesday's meeting. "Propaganda is not necessarily trying to spread an untruth. It's more to the point of trying to coordinate your message."

Mr. Zabel put it more diplomatically.

"Hollywood specializes in communications," he said. "Sometimes the communications are images from films or television series that don't necessarily support who we are as Americans when they're seen overseas."

He added: "I believe the contribution Hollywood can make is to help refine getting America's message out, not only to other Americans, but to the global community worldwide."

Mr. Zabel said his industry stands ready to help the Bush administration, despite their ideological differences on a host of social issues. He summed up the industry's position in a single question:

"Is there anything Hollywood can help the government do, in terms of delivering the American message of hope and freedom and opportunity around the world, so that we aren't limited in the message we send out to being something seen from a feature film or a television series?"

During World War II, Hollywood produced pro-American entertainment ranging from cartoons to feature films. Mr. Zabel said today's more cynical popular culture doesn't mean Hollywood can't promote America.

"Yes, we are more cynical than we used to be," he said. "However, the American spirit and our character is still as rock solid as it always was."

Miss Buchan said the administration has had an outreach program to Hollywood since Mr. Bush took office earlier this year. But cooperation has increased in the past month.

"I would imagine that had the events of September 11 not occurred, the Bush administration may have been slower in reaching out and Hollywood would have been slower in accepting," Mr. Zabel said. "We have to look vastly beyond that paradigm of seeing it as a Republican or Democratic issue.

"That's not to say that in 2004, people might not support another candidate I don't know; anything can happen," he added. "But that's for another time. People right now are saying let's all pull together."

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