White House encouraged by Hollywood's contributions to war on terrorism, adviser says

Thursday, December 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ While some entertainment industry members remain uneasy about their role in the war on terrorism, a White House adviser said President Bush is encouraged by Hollywood's contributions so far.

``But he also feels strongly it's not his role to dictate content'' or condone censorship, adviser Mark McKinnon told a panel discussion Wednesday night at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Addressing industry uneasiness about two meetings between White House and Hollywood officials in recent weeks, McKinnon said Washington went into the conferences unsure about what course to take.

Concerns about heavy-handed government action were fanned by media, McKinnon and others on the panel said.

``They were just ready to bite,'' McKinnon said of the news media's reactions to the closed-door meetings.

As it turned out, McKinnon said, Hollywood was ``way out ahead of us'' in trying to do what it could to aid the effort.

``All we're trying to do right now is say 'Fantastic. Thank you,''' McKinnon told a panel that included NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker and ``The West Wing'' creator Aaron Sorkin.

Bryce Zabel, TV academy chairman and panel moderator, suggested the industry remains confused, however, about what exactly Washington wants, especially after government officials said movie and TV content were not issues.

``So what was discussed?'' Zabel asked. ``How to get `Harry Potter' DVDs to the USS Carl Vinson?''

``There are a thousand projects'' flourishing that will come to fruition in the near future, McKinnon said.

Other panelists mentioned the possibility of public service announcements and good-will tours as part of Hollywood's work.

Zucker said that despite much speculation that the events of Sept. 11 would have a profound effect on the content of movies and television shows, that hasn't happened.

``It's a good story to believe the entertainment world changed after September 11. It makes good copy, but so far we're not seeing that,'' Zucker said. ``There's no increase in the number of shows that have anything to do with September 11.''

Sorkin said the impact of Sept. 11 will clearly be seen in the future, however. His show addressed the terrorist attacks in the first episode of this season.

``It's impossible that this somehow now isn't going to become part of the bloodstream of what we put on television,'' he said.

Another panelist, writer-director Paris Barclay (``NYPD Blue,'' ``City of Angels''), said he is continuing to go his own way.

``I'm not thinking about what the government wants me to do,'' he said.

He said he is examining what he sees as a lack of American tolerance and brotherhood.

Zabel read an e-mail from one scheduled panelist who was unable to attend, AP Special Correspondent Mort Rosenblum, who has been on assignment in Afghanistan.

``Because of television, Afghans can sit in the Middle Ages and keep tabs on the 21st century,'' Rosenblum wrote. ``Unfortunately, this optical miracle works only one way. On Sept. 10, how much did the average American know about Afghanistan, or the Muslim world in general?''