“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 or 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’ll observe is a vast wasteland.” – Newton Minow at the NAB in 1961.
It was supposed to be a challenge to the industry as a way to use the most powerful medium of the time. Newton Minow passed away from a heart attack on May 6th at 97 years old. Despite being known for stating TV being a “vast wasteland”; he was in fact a TV junkie. Minow was a pioneer in television standards and was the head of the F.C.C. where he was known for “public interest”. He was also behind developing the idea behind modern day broadcast debates of the Presidential candidates. He helped pave the way to the modern day public broadcasting.
He spoke to WGN-TV in 2017 suggesting local journalists being skeptical, hold the government accountable without being cynical.
He was alive to see this all disappear on all mediums, not just broadcast TV, but cable and never mind social media and an FCC that is selectively regulating the signals, and is not holding the license holders or the broadcasters in the same way as Mr. Minow did back in the day.
WGN-TV did this well done report, given Mr. Minow’s connections to Chicagoland, and it’s also their 75th anniversary on the air.
May he rest in peace and aspiring broadcasters to take a page of the past to implement in the future to hopefully make mass media have some credibility again.