American tourists abroad can sightsee from their hotel rooms by tuning in to local television.
There's plenty of indigenous programming out there to help you get a better handle on an unfamiliar culture, according to an article in the current issue of Connoisseur, and much of it conforms to far higher standards than American television. Even the junk can be educational.Here's an alphabetical and selective tip sheets on the best of what is available in some foreign countries:
Australia: The noncommercial Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) is your best bet for diverse programming down under. Another network, SBS, specializes in multicultural programming aimed at Australia's large ethnic population.
On the audio side, ABC's Radio National presents a wide-ranging schedule, including a morning news roundup, "A.M.," reputed to be a favorite among Australian MPs. For the best nonstop concert music, try Radio National on the FM dial.
England: Many Americans, thanks to Masterpiece Theater, already have a good sense of British television's highs and lows. Watch for "Spitting Image" (politically satirical puppets) and "The South Bank Show," an hourlong magazine show, on ITV, and "Omnibus" on BBC 2. Check out Channel 4 for the egghead side of England's commercial TV.
On the radio dial, try Radio 4 for book reviews, humor quiz shows, radio plays and other spoken word features; Radio 3 for classical and jazz music.
France: France's most estimable television tradition is "Apostrophes," a 90-minute literature-and-ideas talk show, hosted by France's favorite TV personality, Bernard Pivot, on state-run Antenne 2. Channel 7 is an all-cultural station headed by Georges Duby, a leading French intellectual.
For 24-hour classical music with a minimum of talk and no commercials, try Radio Classique at 101.1 on the FM band.
Germany: The best cultural program, featuring theater performances, new opera, dance, book reviews and film interviews, is "Aspekte" on ZDF. On ARD look for "Kultur Weltspiegel," an international cultural magazine. Radio programming is regional.
Ireland: A good way to monitor the Irish pulse is via Gay Byrne, who hosts a morning radio show, "The Gay Byrne Hour," and a late-night TV program, "The Late Late Show." Each features lively discussions among Byrne, studio guests and audience call-ins. Both are on RTE, the government-run broadcasting corporation. Ireland also is fed a heavy dose of BBC programming.
Italy: Italians still mount live television variety shows that make up in energy for what they sometimes lack in quality. RAI 1 does them best - try "Domenica In," which runs virtually all day Sunday, or "Fantastico" on Saturday night.
Radio 3 is the best bet for classical music.
Japan: The language barrier will discourage most American travelers, but arts programs require little translation. "Arts Theater," a showcase for classical Japanese theater, dance and music, airs on NHK channel 3, one of two national public services.
NHK's FM radio station is the best choice for both Eastern and Western music.
USSR: There are two national television channels in the Soviet Union. Channel 1 often offers excellent cultural programming. Animation is another Soviet TV specialty, with innovative cartoon shows airing on Channel 2.
For traveling TV-news junkies, Ted Turner's Cable News Network beams English-language newcasts directly to hotels around the world. CBS has begun shipping its evening newcast to France, Italy, Japan and, starting in September, West Germany, for broadcasting the following morning.