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Good TV, Bad TV

WE'RE delighted to learn that C-SPAN - the you-are-there network - is adding a third channel. Amid the welter of docu-dramas, misleading sound bites, and tabloid TV shows that masquerade as news and history on today's video screens, it's heartening to find that unvarnished, see-it-with-your-own-eyes broadcasting is gaining some ground.

Yes, we know some people have been putting down C-SPAN since its inception - comparing it unfairly to Andy Warhol's movie of a man sleeping. And we grant that sometimes speeches in Congress and subcommittee testimony aren't the full story of what's happening in behind-scenes negotiations in Washington. But C-SPAN does represent history in the making. And it makes the process of American government understandable to ordinary citizens, as well as wonks. It's often hard to turn off.

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Contrast that with the strange spectacle that the History Channel recently aired, in which quite a few conspiracy buffs trotted out their speculations - devoid of credible evidence - about the Kennedy assassination. Start a new network and call it the superstition channel, if you want. But stick to real history if you're broadcasting under that banner.

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