Brilliantly Independent - Broadcasting & Cable

Brilliantly Independent

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It is appropriate that some of the last writing John Higgins did for B&C (see below) was an intelligent and insightful commentary…with an edge. While the outcry for Fox to put the kibosh on its O.J. Simpson tandem of exploitive book and TV sweeps special seemed virtually unanimous, including from this magazine's editorial page, Higgins was not yet ready to join the victory dance when Fox decided to heed that outcry.

Higgins died suddenly and unexpectedly Monday night of a heart attack, leaving a hole in the hearts of everyone who worked with him, or talked with him, or argued with him, or laughed with him, and who loved him, which, it sometimes seemed, just about covered everyone on the planet.

John Higgins was nothing if not brilliantly, fiercely, independent, and with the strength of character to swim against the tide, make that the flood, when steeled by the courage of his convictions.

In a blog item filed Monday afternoon, Higgins wrote the following:

"Does anyone find News Corp.’s decision to cancel O.J. Simpson’s “confession” disturbing? It’s pretty scary to see a a major media company as powerful as News Corp. cowed into cancelling a program and a book just because a lot of people who have seen neither product find it inappropriate.

"It is pretty hard to defend Fox and HarperCollins slating O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened, doubtless funneling millions of dollars his way. But once the TV interview and book were slated, I hate the idea that critics could shout it both off the air and off the bookshelves even before anyone gets to see what’s in it.

"If the dispute involved some sexy crime show opposed by Christian TV indecency groups or, worse, Congress, some of the same critics of the The OJ Show would be defending the media giant.

"OJ is unimportant to me. I am in complete control of my exposure to what he has to say. I could choose not to watch the TV special; I could choose not buy the book. Critics had the same options.

What worries me is who will back down in the future in the face of an outcry over some truly important issue. A Fox News look at, say, civil liberties abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies or a 60 Minutes piece on plans for an invasion of Iran. Or a CNN documentary on soldiers that murder civilians in Iraq.

So just remember that the OJ critics just made it a little bit easier to keep media outlets from speaking."

By John M. Higgins

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