20. Memorandum From Larry Ewalt of the Office of Assistant Director, Motion Pictures and Television Service, United States Information Agency, to the Deputy Assistant Director, Motion Pictures and Television Service (Russell)1


  • Field Reaction to TRANSITION ’77 Series

Ninety-five posts have ordered TRANSITION ’77.2 Forty-seven have responded, so far, to IMV’s request for comment and guidance on the series. General reaction has been very favorable, with the initial program being enthusiastically received as a useful and timely product that is excellent in both substance and production technique. It was viewed as a means to help the interested viewer understand the transition process and give him a sense of having obtained an inside glimpse at the character, style and mood of the key personalities in the new administration. A sampling of these reactions:

USIS Amman—“Joint Mission review indicates first program timely and useful. Casual atmosphere reflects style of President and his administration.”

USIS Belgrade—“Yugoslav newsman who has seen first program in the TRANSITION ’77 series (interviews with Brzezinski, Powell, Lance, et. al.) was delighted with content (especially Powell’s comments on government-media relationships) and would like to publish excerpts in bi-weekly magazine.”

USIS Bern—“First program was enthusiastically received at two showings for Ambassador and staff within the Embassy. Format and questions were successful in presenting little if not unknown personalities to curious audience.”

USIS Bonn—“Post thought first VTR in TRANSITION ’77 series very good and would hope that second program would maintain same format, quality and tone . . . Morgan’s technique gives the viewer the sense of having obtained an ‛inside’ view and this view, we think, is a very positive one.”

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USIS Brasilia—“Post sees format and length of first program as good; interviewer and questions excellent; questions to Brzezinski and Jordan (particularly question on Vietnam experience) outstanding. Post foresees usefulness of programming primarily with small groups of government and press contacts.”

USIS Brussels—“. . . showed first part TRANSITION ’77 at luncheon/screening program today before a gilt-edge audience, including wide selection of top electronic and print journalists and prominent academics. Response was very favorable about content, as we expected. For audience, this was the first time most had opportunity to see new personalities on-screen and to learn something of their attitudes.”

USIS Canberra—“Response to first TRANSITION ’77 VTR program has been excellent. This VTR has been applauded by both media and political leader audiences in Australia. Edward P. Morgan’s informative but low-key approach is just right for this kind of subject.”

USIS Dakar—“Program promises to be useful for Government of Senegal, media officials . . . Third program should emphasize delineation between Executive-Legislative for those audiences who do not understand why Presidential word is not law.”

USIS London—“USIS London congratulates IMV on initial TRANSITION ’77 program, which would be hard to beat on substance and style. Post has scheduled select invitational Embassy showings for key audience members beginning next week. Our only recommendation is not to tamper with whatever it was that went into first program to make it so effective.”

USIS Mexico—“Format interesting and varied, resembling network special report program, and of comparable quality . . . VTR shown to Presidential Advisory Staff, Mexico City leadership, students at Iberoamerican University, with highly favorable responses.”

USIS Taipei—“First program useful in introducing White House personalities in relaxed format which contributed to general impression of forthrightness, open-minded approach to problems, opportunities facing Carter administration . . . Interviewer’s penetrating questions gave overall feeling of new style in White House.”

USIS Tehran—“Post pleased with first in series. Sees real potential for VTRs in introducing major administration personalities to top level Iranians.”

USIS Tokyo—“First program excellent, no major adjustments needed in format, time, etc. President Carter and members of his administration are objects of considerable interest on part of media representatives, policy planners, members of counterpart (Government) Ministries, etc. There is much interest in learning more about the individuals, their philosophies, ideas, attitudes toward government and use of power.”

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Many posts indicated they already had begun, or were making preparations, to program the series, primarily in direct invitational screenings for primary target audiences of government officials, political leaders, media representatives, academics, students, business and labor leaders, etc. These would take place at Agency residences, libraries, cultural centers or wherever most convenient for the particular individual or group.

Many posts indicated they were attempting to place the program with television stations. The most probable television use would appear to be adaptation and segmentary use in the form of single interviews or excerpted statements, rather than placement in its entirety.

Though most posts expressed general satisfaction with the content and format of the series, there were some which were not entirely pleased with the first program. Some dissatisfaction was expressed. The single element most often mentioned was program length. Many felt it should have been kept to 30 minutes. Others felt the program’s introduction was too long and that the program should move into the interviews faster. Proving again you can’t satisfy everyone, some posts said the interviews were too short, some said they were too long.

Posts with sharp-eyed viewers noted that the opening montage of stills showed all post World War II Presidents except Johnson and Nixon (and felt that the omission of Nixon was too obvious) and that interviewer Edward P. Morgan wore two different neckties during the program.

Most of this “critical” comment was constructive and in the form of suggestions on how future programs could be more targeted to audiences in each post’s particular area.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of the Director, Executive Secretariat, Secretariat Staff, Correspondence Files, 1973–1980, Entry P–104, Box 114, 7700690–7700699. No classification marking. Sent through Marquis, who initialed the memorandum. Russell sent a copy of the memorandum to Jagoda under a March 15 memorandum, stating: “We have a good feeling about the project and its value and were grateful for your office’s fine cooperation on it.” (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 3.