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Newton Minow - "Television is a Vast Wasteland" by Newton Minow

Newton Minow - "Television is a Vast Wasteland"

by Newton Minow

Title Details

Audio Original
Running Time
39 Min.
User Rating
  3.5  Stars Based on 2 ratings


Newton Norman Minow (born January 17, 1926) is an American attorney and former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. His speech referring to television as a "Vast Wasteland" is cited even as the speech approaches its 50th anniversary.

Minow became one of the most well known and respected -- if sometimes controversial -- political figures of the early 1960s because of his criticism of commercial television. In a speech given to the National Association of Broadcasters convention on May 9, 1961, he was extremely critical of television broadcasters for not doing more, in Minow's view, to serve the public interest. His phrase, "vast wasteland", is remembered years after the speech after he said,

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 you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and loss sheet or rating book to distract you -- and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

While some applauded his "vast wasteland" assault on commercial television as a welcome criticism of excessive violence and frivolity, others criticized it as an elitist, snobbish attack on programming that many viewers enjoyed and as government interference with private enterprise. The S. S. Minnow of the 1964–1967 television show Gilligan's Island was sarcastically named for him to express displeasure with his assessment of the quality of television.

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An unheeded warning...
Reviewer ncapo
 August 16, 2008
A prophetic cry echoes back to us from 1960 from the mouth of Mr. Newton Minow. It is a call for greedy, money loving men, now dead most likely, to provide more decency, dignity and intelligence to the American public. It is painful to see how unheeded his call was. How far the broadcasters and consequentially the people have digressed in their base and vulgar tastes since then. Minow was right, on a diet of mostly ice cream, violence and no Sunday school, look how dumb the masses have become. Listen to this, share it... perhaps there is still hope... oh yes, and also, don't forget to throw out your TV.

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