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Bush aides aim for TV prod’n biz

Two top aides to President Bush are plotting a move into what they hope will be greener pastures–the TV production biz.

White House counsel C. Boyden Gray and Bush’s media affairs assistant Dorrance Smith are in “serious discussions” about forming a partnership to syndicate public affairs and political talkshow programs. The new company is tentatively entitled Counter Prods.

“We’ll be redefining the analysis/commentary programs,” said Smith. “This whole genre’s going to move in the next two years. The country is not satisfied with the current crop of shows.”

Smith, 41, is hardly a rookie when it comes to program production. Before landing his White House job, he helped launch ABC’s “This Week With David Brinkley” as executive producer.

Gray, 49, reportedly brings to the table the financial resources that could help get the venture off the ground. Smith and Gray were planning to meet with attorneys yesterday in D.C. to discuss the company’s start-up.

Smith said he’s got “five or six programs in my head” that he would like to launch. Tops on the list is an hourlong “public affairs/pundit/analysis program” that allows viewer interaction and questioning of analysts via telephone or a town-meeting format.

Per Smith, the pundits would not necessarily have to represent opposing political parties.

“Right now ‘The McLaughlin Group’ is almost a parody of itself,” said Smith. “The formats are locked in and you know what the participants are going to say before they open their mouths. There’s a monolithic point of view if you’re on the left or right. I don’t think life works that way.” Though cable and/or the Public Broadcasting Service would seem the likely outlet for carrying the talking-heads programs, Smith said he also may pitch his ideas to Fox Broadcasting. “I’m not going to limit myself,” he said.

Their goal is to “broaden the debate on issues,” Smith said. “We’re not looking for high-volume Geraldo, but more credible debate.”

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