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Marcel Ophuls and the ORTF: The Sorrow and the Pity

Paris, France July 31, 1972   Marcel Ophuls quit French state-controlled television in 1968 following an abortive 15,000-employee strike for freedom of information. “I knew the censorship situation would become even worse than it was before,” he said. And it appears that he was right. The man who refused to broadcast Ophuls’s extraordinary four-and-a-half-hour documentary “The Sorrow and the Pity” three years ago was just fired – for being too permissive. In his place, new Prime Minister Pierre Messmer appointed a 52-year-old hard-line Gaullist named Arthur Conte. And Conte’s first official act as director-general of the ORTF was to fire News Director Pierre Desgraupes who, according to the International Herald Tribune, “had been under attack for giving too much prominence to the political opposition and for producing an allegedly pessimistic view of France.” Concern for the national morale has always dominated the thinking in French broadcasting, and it may become an issue in American public television as well. Justifying a de-emphasis on political documentaries on American public television this year, Hartford Gunn, president of the

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