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Tumultuous Times for Democracy Compelled Moyers' Return to TV

- Common Dreams staff

After a nearly two year hiatus, journalist Bill Moyers will return to television this weekend with a new show called Moyers & Company.  His previous show, Bill Moyers' Journal, ended in 2010.

Bill Moyers is returning to public television this weekend with “Moyers & Company.” (Chad Batka for The New York Times) According to the show's new website at BillMoyers.com, the show will be focused on the role of democracy in society and stipulates it will "be a political series, but not a partisan one."

The New York Times profiled the septuagenarian journalist over the weekend and gave a sense of the show's scope as well as a sampling of the guest list:

Aided by 30 employees (just over half that of “Journal”), Mr. Moyers has banked interviews in recent weeks with the former Reagan budget chief David Stockman, the former Citibank chief executive John S. Reed and the poet Rita Dove (with whom he read “The Hill” by Edgar Lee Masters). He also held a marathon four-hour chat with the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of “Winner-Take-All Politics,” which he called “the most important book I’ve read” since ending the old show; it will provide the backbone for his first three episodes.

Though he originally planned to use his "retirement" to work on a focused documentary project on the President for whom he once worked, Lyndon B. Johnson, he ultimately decided, as the Times reported, that “today is more interesting than yesterday.”

Unlike his previous shows, which were distributed by PBS, Moyers & Company is being distributed by American Public Television, a separate and independent distribution company. In their announcement of the show, APT celebrated Moyers unique brand of journalism:

In a multimedia marketplace saturated with shallow sound bites and partisan name-calling, 'Moyers & Company' digs deeper. As the Los Angeles Times put it in 2010, “No one on television has centralized the discussion of ideas as much as Moyers... He not only gives a forum to unusual thinkers, he is truly interested in what they have to say and who they are because he believes their ideas really matter.”

To get a sense of what's on Moyers' mind these days and where he may go with his newest show, clips from a recent interview he gave with Val Zavala on SoCal Connected are revealing. In a series of interview clips with Zavala, Moyers spoke about "crony capitalism, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and President Obama's own contribution to the economic crisis". 

The core question the show seeks to address -- economic inequality and the interplay it has with the state of American democracy -- was also the question that most compelled Moyers' return to television. As he explained to Zavala:

The growth of inequality in this country is the biggest story of our time. The "have-nots" now have less than they ever did. The "have-it-alls" now have more than they ever did. Since 1979, 40 percent of the growth of income has gone to one percent of the population. This is changing us radically.

You go back to the last part of the 19th century, the first gilded age. We're living in the second gilded age. The first gilded age, the industrial revolution, released enormous wealth at the top and excruciating misery at the bottom. It took the populist movement, the progressive movement, finally leading into the New Deal and the Fair Deal, before we began to correct those imbalances.

Moyers says he's not against capitalism, and is "for prosperity." But, he says, it's "shared prosperity" that has disappeared as stagnate wages exist alongside huge wealth gains at the top income levels, and that "greed" has outpaced "democracy".

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On the Occupy Wall Street movement, Moyers says, he know why citizens have taken to building encampments and demanding accountability from both politicians and big financial institutions, saying: "They're occupying Wall Street, because Wall Street has occupied the country."

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On the role of the presidency and presidential candidates. Nobody forced Obama to make the economic advisors he appointed to important posts, says Moyers. He made those choices himself, he argues, and those choices have consequences that we are all forced to live with.

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