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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   September 1998  issue

History Buff   

Arthur Kent moves to cable.


By Keri P. Mattox
     


Persian Gulf War ``Scud Stud" Arthur Kent, having long retired his famed leather jacket and desert-wear, goes cable with a new gig on the History Channel this fall.
Kent, 44, a former NBC News foreign correspondent, will host the weekly documentary series ``History Undercover" starting September 6. He says he joined the show ``because the content is happily very international in nature," and the material is ``genuine, straightforward, factual information given in a very interesting way."
A two-time Emmy winner for his coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the anti-Ceausescu uprising in Romania, Kent criticizes network news while giving kudos to his new employer. He calls the documentary-style television offered by the History Channel the ``oasis of sanity somewhere on the dial" and accuses the networks of having a ratings-based, ``hyper-commercial approach."
``Too many of our news programs have backed away" from serious and factual news coverage, he says.
Kent's faultfinding of network television is strongly tied to his post-gulf war falling-out with NBC while working for its newsmagazine, ``Dateline NBC." After Kent and network executives clashed over his assignment to ``Dateline" instead of ``Nightly News," Kent filed a $25 million lawsuit against the network alleging breach of contract. In March 1994, an agreement was reached and Kent received an undisclosed (and reputedly substantial) out-of-court settlement.
Since his exit from the network, Kent hosted the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s respected documentary series, ``Man Alive," during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons; started his own production company, Fast Forward Films Limited of London; and wrote a book, ``Risk and Redemption: Surviving the Network News Wars," which chronicles his battle with NBC.
His new boss, Charlie Maday, vice president of historical programming at the History Channel, says Kent was chosen for ``History Undercover" not only because he ``looked good," but because he is the ``perfect" host for the show. Maday praises Kent's ``reputation for integrity." The series this season will address the ``forgotten war" in Burma between Great Britain and Japan, the origins of the electric chair and the silence of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust.
Kent says he is looking forward to getting involved in creating and reporting future ``History Undercover" programs and taking a break from today's network news coverage where, he says, ``ratings may be up, but nobody believes what they're saying."