"Television and the Public Interest" was a speech given by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Newton N. Minow to the convention of the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961. The speech was Minow's first major speech after he was appointed chairman of the FCC by then President John F. Kennedy.
In the speech, Minow referred to American commercial television programming as a "vast wasteland" and advocated for programming in the public interest. In hindsight, the speech marked the end of a Golden Age of Television that had run through the 1950s, contrasting the highbrow programs of that decade (Minow specifically cited Westinghouse Studio One and Playhouse 90 , both of which ended that year, as examples of "the much bemoaned good old days") with what had appeared on American television in 1960 and 1961.
Minow mentioned a handful of praiseworthy shows that were still in production (among them The Twilight Zone , variety specials by Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, and some documentaries), then warned that such programs were the exception rather than the rule:
When television is good, nothing—not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers—nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials—many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.
Minow went on to dismiss the idea that public taste was driving the change in programming, stating his firm belief that if television choices were expanded, viewers would gravitate toward higher culture programming. He noted that a large majority of prime time television—59 out of 73 hours—consisted of undesirable television genera: quiz shows, movies, variety shows, sitcoms, and action-adventure series, the last of which included espionage thrillers and the then-ubiquitous Westerns. He stated that "most young children today spend as much time watching television as they do in the schoolroom" and that cartoons and violence typical of children's television of the era was wholly unacceptable, comparable to feeding a child nothing but "ice cream, school holidays and no Sunday school." He also used newspapers as a comparison, noting that although comic strips and advice columns were newspapers' most popular items, they were not featured on the front pages because (according to Minow) the newspapers were still voluntarily bound to the public interest despite being outside the purview of the FCC, something Minow believed television had abandoned as it had become too beholden to Nielsen Ratings.
Minow conceded that there were numerous barriers to improvement, many of them financial, and expressed his reluctance to use the FCC as a censor, except to enforce rules imposed by recent scandals in the quiz show genre. A partial solution Minow proposed was the expansion of non-commercial educational television, which was not yet as widespread as the major broadcast networks.
In his speech Minow also shared advice to his audience:
Television and all who participate in it are jointly accountable to the American public for respect for the special needs of children, for community responsibility, for the advancement of education and culture, for the acceptability of the program materials chosen, for decency and decorum in production, and for propriety in advertising. This responsibility cannot be discharged by any given group of programs, but can be discharged only through the highest standards of respect for the American home, applied to every moment of every program presented by television. Program materials should enlarge the horizons of the viewer, provide him with wholesome entertainment, afford helpful stimulation, and remind him of the responsibilities which the citizen has toward his society.
The phrase "vast wasteland" was suggested to Minow by his friend, reporter and freelance writer John Bartlow Martin. Martin had recently watched twenty consecutive hours of television as research for a magazine piece, and concluded it was "a vast wasteland of junk". During the editing process, Minow cut the words "of junk".
Minow often remarks that the two words best remembered from the speech are "vast wasteland", but the two words he wishes would be remembered are "public interest".
According to television historians Castleman and Podrazik (1982), the networks had already purchased their fall 1961 programs and had locked in their 1961–62 schedules at the time Minow had made his speech, leaving them unable to make the adjustments Minow had hoped. "The best the networks could do was slot a few more public affairs shows, paint rosy pictures for 1962–63, and prepare to endure the barrage of criticism they felt certain would greet the new season." Castleman and Podrazik noted that there was an attempt to increase documentary programming in the 1962–63 season, but that "their sheer number diluted the audience and stretched resources far too thin to allow quality productions each week," resulting in a schedule that much resembled "business as usual."1962 saw an even greater increase in some of the formats Minow detested, with premises becoming more and more surreal: two prime time cartoons ( Beany and Cecil and The Jetsons ) and sitcoms with outlandish premises (such as hillbillies becoming rich and moving to Beverly Hills in The Beverly Hillbillies , or a veterinarian getting mistakenly drafted and sent to Paris in Don't Call Me Charlie! ) were among the new offerings.
The speech was not without detractors, as that lambasting of the state of United States television programming prompted Sherwood Schwartz to name the boat on his television show Gilligan's Island the S. S. Minnow after Newton Minow.Game show host Dennis James remarked in 1972 that Minow's assertion that viewers naturally gravitated toward highbrow programming was proven false, noting that although "the critics will always look down their noses," lowbrow forms of entertainment such as game shows "have a tremendous appeal" to the average American. He indirectly referenced Minow in the interview, quipping "they can talk about the great wasteland and everything else—if you want to read books, read books."
In a 2011 interview, he stated that consumer choice was the most important improvement in television in the decades since his speech yet lost the shared experience of the medium.
Writing for Wired Magazine , Matthew Lasar pointed out:
Like so many media reformers, Minow strikes me as reluctant to acknowledge an obvious difference between 1961 and 2011. TV is not a vast wasteland anymore. It's a crazy, weed-filled, wonderful, out-of-control garden.
The DuMont Television Network was one of America's pioneer commercial television networks, rivalling NBC and CBS for the distinction of being first overall in the United States. It was owned by Allen B. DuMont Laboratories, a television equipment and set manufacturer, and began operation on June 28, 1942.
Gilligan's Island is an American sitcom created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz. The show's ensemble cast features Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, and Dawn Wells. It aired for three seasons on the CBS network from September 26, 1964, to April 17, 1967. The series follows the comic adventures of seven castaways as they try to survive on an island where they are shipwrecked. Most episodes revolve around the dissimilar castaways' conflicts and their unsuccessful attempts to escape their plight, with Gilligan often being responsible for the failures.
The following television-related events took place during 1961.
The following is the 1959–60 network television schedule for the three major English language commercial broadcast networks in the United States. The schedule covers primetime hours from September 1959 through March 1960. The schedule is followed by a list per network of returning series, new series, and series cancelled after the 1958–59 season.
The following is the 1960–61 network television schedule for the three major English language commercial broadcast networks in the United States. The schedule covers primetime hours from September 1960 through March 1961. The schedule is followed by a list per network of returning series, new series, and series cancelled after the 1959–60 season.
The following is the 1961–62 network television schedule for the three major English language commercial broadcast networks in the United States. The schedule covers primetime hours from September 1961 through April 1962. The schedule is followed by a list per network of returning series, new series, and series cancelled after the 1960–61 season.
The following is the 1962–63 network television schedule for the three major English language commercial broadcast networks in the United States. The schedule covers primetime hours from September 1962 through August 1963. The schedule is followed by a list per network of returning series, new series, and series cancelled after the 1961–62 season.
The following is the 1964–65 network television schedule for the three major English language commercial broadcast networks in the United States. The schedule covers primetime hours from September 1964 through August 1965. The schedule is followed by a list per network of returning series, new series, and series cancelled after the 1963–64 season.
Wasteland or waste land may refer to:
Newton Norman Minow is an American attorney and former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. His speech referring to television as a "vast wasteland" is cited even as the speech has passed its 60th anniversary. While still maintaining a law practice, Minow is currently the Honorary Consul General of Singapore in Chicago.
The first Golden Age of Television is the era of live television production in the United States, roughly from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. According to The Television Industry: A Historical Dictionary, "the Golden Age opened with Kraft Television Theatre on May 7, 1947, and ended with the last live show in the Playhouse 90 series in 1957;" the Golden Age is universally recognized to have ended by 1960, as the television audience and programming had shifted to less critically acclaimed fare, almost all of it taped or filmed.
The S. S. Minnow is a fictional charter boat on the hit 1960s television sitcom Gilligan's Island. The ship ran aground on the shore of "an uncharted desert isle", setting the stage for this popular situation comedy. The crew of two were the skipper Jonas Grumby and his first mate Gilligan, and the five passengers were millionaire Thurston Howell III, his wife Lovey Howell, movie star Ginger Grant, professor Roy Hinkley, and farm girl Mary Ann Summers.
Action for Children's Television (ACT) was founded by Peggy Charren, Lillian Ambrosino, Evelyn Kaye Sarson and Judy Chalfen in Newton, Massachusetts, USA, in 1968 as a grassroots, nonprofit child advocacy group dedicated to improving the quality of television programming offered to children. Specifically, ACT's main goals were to encourage diversification in children's television offerings, to discourage overcommercialization of children's programming, and to eliminate deceptive advertising aimed at young viewers. ACT had up to 20,000 volunteer members, eight staff members, and an operational budget of $225,000 by the mid-1980s, but declined financially and to four staff members before disbanding in 1992. About 70% of funds came from the group's membership, while the rest came from foundation grants and fees from lectures and book sales.
The following is the 1956–57 network television schedule for the three major English language commercial broadcast networks in the United States. The schedule covers primetime hours from September 1956 through March 1957. The schedule is followed by a list per network of returning series, new series, and series cancelled after the 1955–56 season.
The following is the 1952–53 network television schedule for the four major English language commercial broadcast networks in the United States. The schedule covers primetime hours from September 1952 through March 1953. The schedule is followed by a list per network of returning series, new series, and series cancelled after the 1951–52 season.
The 1961–62 daytime network television schedule for the three major English-language commercial broadcast networks in the United States covers the weekday daytime hours from September 1961 to August 1962.
These are the daytime Monday–Friday schedules on all three networks for each calendar season beginning September 1958. All times are Eastern and Pacific. The 1958-1959 season, beginning October 13 for ABC, was its first "full scale daytime programming" schedule.
The 1960–61 daytime network television schedule for the three major English-language commercial broadcast networks in the United States covers the weekday daytime hours from September 1960 to August 1961.
The broadcast of children's programming by terrestrial television stations in the United States is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under regulations colloquially referred to as the Children's Television Act (CTA), the E/I rules, or the Kid Vid rules. Since 1997, all full-power and Class A low-power television stations have been required to broadcast at least three hours per-week of programs that are specifically designed to meet the educational and informative (E/I) needs of children aged 16 and younger. There are also regulations on advertising in broadcast and cable television programming targeting children 12 and younger, including limits on ad time, and prohibitions on advertising of products related to the program currently airing.
A Trip to the Moon is a 1964 television science fiction comedy film, produced as an episode of the CBS series Chronicle. The script was written by Jonathan Miller and Robert Goldman, based on Jules Verne's 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. All characters are portrayed by Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Miller, and Dudley Moore, who had first worked together in the revue Beyond the Fringe.
The producers of The Flintstones have a new family called The Jetsons, who live in outer space.
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