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TV execs to help White House in war effort

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - White House officials met this week with top television executives to enlist support in the war on terrorism and find out what "Hollywood could do for the nation," participants said on Thursday.
About 25 members of the entertainment establishment, among them Oscar-winning actress Sally Field, took part in Wednesday's unusual two-hour meeting in Beverly Hills, exploring how to enhance America's image abroad and the government's message to its own citizens, said Bryce Zabel, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

"We all share the mutual interest of wanting to do whatever is best for our country, and communication is a powerful tool," Zabel told Reuters.

CBS Television President Leslie Moonves, another participant, told Reuters, "It was a meeting about what Hollywood could do for the nation. We talked about shows, and how we could contribute to the fabric of America."

Moonves said no specifics emerged from the meeting.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the meeting was arranged at the request of the entertainment industry and was an extension of previous Bush administration contacts with Hollywood leaders. "The entertainment industry wants to respond to this crisis and wants to do so in a responsible way ... we'll continue to talk with them and listen to their ideas."

The gathering, first reported on Thursday by the Hollywood trade paper Daily Variety, was a first step toward forming an "arts and entertainment task force" to link the Bush administration and the entertainment community.

Variety said initiatives could include efforts to mobilise existing communications systems, such as satellites and cable TV, to improve global understanding. Short films, too, might be used to present information about biological weapons like anthrax or other tools of war, Variety said.

Zabel said much of the initial discussion dealt with refining "our country's message," both for domestic audiences and to the world at large.

"The message of America is reflected by what television shows and films they're watching," he said, adding that no one was suggesting the launch of a propaganda campaign.

"I don't think anyone is looking for Hollywood to make another Frank Capra 'Why We Fight,'" he said, referring to the wartime documentary the legendary director made for the Army during World War Two. "I think those times are gone, and we have a more sophisticated audience and entertainment industry."

Four White House officials took part in the meetings, including Chris Henrick, deputy assistant to the president, and Adam Goldman, associate director of the office of public liaison, Zabel said.

Other industry executives included Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. TV, Sandy Grushow, chairman of Fox Television Entertainment Group, Jerry Offsay, president of programming for Showtime cable TV network, Colin Callender, president of films for cable network HBO. Field and actor Ron Silver also attended.

CBS and Showtime are units of Viacom Inc. and cable TV channel HBO and Warner Bros. TV are divisions of AOL Time Warner Inc. Fox is a unit of News Corp. Ltd.
 
 

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