I originally found Leon Lynn's letter and John Kovalic's blog via Wingman Curt, and when I RT-ed the letter link on le Twitter, it struck a chord with the rest of the community, so off I went into the woods. In the past I/we have made a case that corporate media conglomerate bullshitting such as this is trickle down from the many issues that extreme media consolidation has created.
Here is the original posting of the letter on Dorktower.com I'm glad that Leon Lynn wrote this and that John posted it to his blog. I hope they both like this vid.
'A Charlie Brown Christmas' the soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi can be found on iTunes and Amazon, et cetera. The short film special can be gotten via Netflix or Amazon and so forth, although I warn you to be careful of what version you buy or rent as there are different edits.
The version ABC chose to upload to Hulu after their broadcast debacle was the same, exact version criticized. That might have been the place to make it up to viewers, but again Disney really has no need to go out of their way and uploaded the compromised version. Viewers have no leverage against a company that's too large to fail. And yet, there were many incensed comments on Hulu regarding Disney's raping of the work, Leon wrote this letter... the Internets were not pleased and some news blogs picked up the story via the letter... all of which led to a Hulu upload of the 42-minute version (available until 1/1).
ABC/Disney/Hulu did not go the extra mile and make Charlie commercial-free as a solid make-good for the audience (my opinion is that that would have been a mutually-rewarding move) and this hardly helps the television audience (television = the most influential medium still), but regardless of all that mess, to my knowledge this change is completely due to web feedback from viewers and that's worth noting. The web, unlike a TV, is a two-way dialogue. It saddens and alarms me that corporations will do whatever they like until they are caught and called on it (and usually not even then do they make changes or abide by laws meant to protect the public). There is a larger issue at play here and we see it reflected both in the actual stories being distributed to our culture and in the way those stories are wielded to influence viewers.
Some people think that in a free market (truly free with no regulation), these issues would not exist as they would be corrected by the market. Other people think that the market is incapable of correcting the problems with big media as these corporations are simply too large and corruption runs too deep. Still others compare our media situation to cartels. And still more people have different ideas, various combinations and nuances... my general point is that if this reasoned debate isn't happening about the role of media in our lives and what media control means to that influence, and if these news stories about the media, communications & entertainment vertical aren't responsibly examined and broadcast, then I wonder what information people will use to make decisions.
I heard (would welcome additional confirmation) that the network compressed the showing in question in order to make even more room for adverts, so Leon's instincts are correct: The audio-sync error is hardly due to ABC not having the ability to check its delivery standards, but instead was also done to accommodate excessive conglomerate advertising and mindless, zero-sum cross-promotion. The only reason Disney probably aired Charlie in the first place was to leverage a title in their library in order to promote the new franchise-less program they had up next by tethering it to something you already know and care about. Sadly this works.
In contrast, it feels good to think that there was a time when A Charlie Brown Christmas aired in full, untouched by the commercialism that makes its premise so wonderful.
Unfortunately, my understanding is that Charlie was never a pure short film. The original special apparently had multiple instances of pushy product placement and ads incorporated in-story targeted at children, which arguably undermines the point of the story. Now that those sponsors aren't paying they have been removed. There is also that the FCC later passed laws about advertising to children. The program has thus gone through quite a few different edits, always (from my understanding) to do with advertisers. Charlie was also turned into a franchise, which means it was licensed out to make all kinds of cheap junk and the characters were used in multiple adverts. Basically, when the kids grew up someone used their dear Charlie to sell them insurance. This was all before my time, so I'd be curious to see/hear anything you know about the history and have experienced yourself.
Yes, that was then. TV has been wrong, a lot, in the past. TV promoted cigarettes and censorship in ways that we now find unbelievable. And this letter should have been written about the original broadcast in 1965. And here we are, now, with our own opportunity to set the bar. Instead of looking backward to a golden time that never was, let us look forward. Let us be the first to air moving art in all forms in the mainstream without undermining its messaging or selling it out to special interests, without using story to manipulate, indoctrinate and sell, sell, sellll! And, when advertising is present as it is at present, let us all be media literate enough to understand the machinations involved, and make decisions accordingly.
Back then, viewers only had the one-way street that is the television. Now, we have the Internet. It is my hope that the 'Net's diversity will counter television's concentrated influence, and will create opportunities for motion picture to exist without advertisers controlling the purse strings or being involved at all, really.
So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Namaste(!) and best wishes of joy and peace to you in whatever spirit you celebrate with glowing hearts and minds alert, on whatever day, in whatever loving way, for whatever human reason--Shalom!