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Terry Hansen on the ABC UFO Special


No one has studied the coverage of UFOs by the mass media better than Terry Hansen, author of "The Missing Times : News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up" . Following the ABC Peter Jennings UFO Special, binnallofamerica.com contacted Hansen to get his take on the much maligned prime time outing. Here's what he had to say :

What are thoughts on the Peter Jennings UFO Special ?

Fairly typical stuff for network TV: Heavy on opinion and short on facts. It was probably designed mostly to entertain and improve ABC's ratings but I don't know for sure since I haven't (yet) talked with the producers.

Would you consider the nature of the program (prime time network TV) to be a step forward for UFO coverage ?

Not really. They didn't report much that was new. I suppose it is nice that they took a few minutes to admit what everyone knows -- there are mysterious things flying around in our atmosphere. But given the resources available to them it fell short of shedding light on the situation. There's far better information on the 'net.

Did anything about the special surprise you ?

I actually thought it might be better than it was, since they did interview some good sources, including scientists interested in the UFO issue such as astronomer Peter Sturrock. But the best material didn't make it into the program. So it was a let-down in that respect.

There were a number of factual errors, too, but that's par for the course for the networks.

What did you think of the much discussed Roswell portion of the special ?

Network TV tends to accept whatever the government says about controversial issues. They accepted the Bush administration's claims about Iraq weapons of mass destruction, for example, despite much contrary evidence from on-site inspectors. So it is not surprising to me that they would embrace the latest in the string of ever-changing official explanations regarding Roswell. They have a right to express an opinion but it should not be confused with accurate journalism!

Did you think the government had a hand in the production or editing of the special ?

There's no way to know. The facts are these: (a) ABC reportedly has cooperated with military-intelligence agences in the past, especially the CIA. (b) The CIA has admitted it wanted to debunk UFOs via a covert, mass-media program, on recommendations of the Robertson Panel. (c) A former Robertson Panel official confessed in 1966 to a CIA associate that he helped organize a CBS News UFO "documentary" narrated by Walter Cronkite around the Robertson Panel's recommendations. So the Robertson Panel's recommendations were carried out. (d) Propaganda programs usually rely on multiple news outlets to be effective.

But, whether ABC has also played ball with the CIA as did CBS, or whether the TV networks are still doing this stuff is really an open question. There is no direct evidence for this, other than their obvious willingness to embrace the official explanation for Roswell and tendency to ignore well-documented facts and evidence.

What were ABC's possible motivations behind the special ?

I can only speculate, but boosting its ratings is the most likely motivation. They are in business to make money and UFOs are a topic of widespread interest among the public.

What should we expect next for UFO coverage from the mainstream media ?

More of the same! UFOs are a national-security issue and the American media does not question the national-security state, as a rule.

Thanks to Terry Hansen for taking the time to respond our questions regarding the ABC special. Serious encouragement is given to reading Hansen's book "The Missing Times", which is essential reading for anyone interested in the UFO phenomenon and its coverage in the mass media.

About Terry Hansen : Terry Hansen is an independent journalist with an interest in scientific controversies and the politics of mass media. He has followed the UFO controversy for decades and has written about it for various media. In addition, he has organized and moderated two symposiums about "The Science and Politics of the UFO Research" for the Science Museum of Minnesota. Hansen holds a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in science journalism, both from the University of Minnesota. He is a founding partner of KFH Publications, Inc., a Seattle computer-magazine publishing company. He is also an active private pilot with ratings for single-engine aircraft and gliders. He lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, with his wife and two parrots. (From the "Missing Times" back cover)

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