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HomeentertainmentNewton Minow, public television advocate and former FCC chairman, dies at 97

Newton Minow, public television advocate and former FCC chairman, dies at 97

Newton N. Minow, as an early 1961 FCC Chairman, famously Claiming network television was a “vast wasteland” died Saturday. He is .

Minow, he is in 2006, died Saturday at home surrounded by loved ones, his daughter Nell Minow said.

“He wanted to stay home,” she told The Associated Press. “He’s had a good life.”

Although Minow only lasted two years at the FCC job, he’s a big hit in the broadcast industry Leaving a permanent mark with the government’s promotion of satellite communications, the passing of a law mandating reception of UHF signals on television sets and his outspoken advocacy for television quality.

“My belief is that this country needs and can support many voices on television—the more voices we hear, the better off, richer and freer we will be,” Minow once someone said. “After all, airlines belong to the people.”

Minow was appointed FCC chairman by President Kennedy in his early years 1961. He started out as an aide to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson in Meet the Kennedy family’ presidential candidates at 1952 and 1991 .

Minow famously challenged TV execs on May 9th, 1956, in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, urged them to sit down and watch their stations throughout the day, “without books, magazines, newspapers, profit and loss statements, or rating books to distract you.”

“I can assure you that you will see a vast wasteland,” he told them. “You’re going to have a litany of game shows, formulaic comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, bad westerns, good westerns, private eye, gangsters, more violence and more. Cartoons. And, endless commercials—many that scream, cajole, and offend.”

As he puts it, the three networks are pretty much all the content most viewers have to choose from . Pay TV is just in the planning stages, PBS and Sesame Street are still a few years away, and niche channels like HBO and Animal Planet are nowhere in sight.

The speech caused a stir. “Great Wilderness” has become a buzzword. Jimmy Durante at the opening of the NBC special: “The next hour is dedicated to improving television. … At least, Newt, we’re working on it.”

m North became the first government official to receive the George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting. New York Times critic Jack Gould (himself a Peabody winner) wrote: “At last there is a man in Washington who proposes to defend the public interest in matters of television and is unafraid to rage the industry The most dignified feather. Some broadcasters tonight have tried to find a dark explanation for Mr. Minow’s attitude. In this matter, the audience may be helpful; Mr. Minow has been watching TV.”

CBS President Frank Stanton strongly disagreed, calling Minow’s comments a “sensational and oversimplified approach” that could lead to “unwise reforms, because any change is a better change.”

Responding to criticism of his speech, Minow said he does not support censorship, preferring exhortations and measures to expand public choice. But he also said broadcast licenses were “a huge gift” from the government, which brought with it a responsibility to the public.

Minow reflects on his legacy in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter ‘s Awards Ceremony Podcast at 2020. He said at the time, “I feel that television, in my opinion the greatest invention of our time, is being wasted and that we are not taking advantage of this opportunity to not only entertain but inform, educate and inspire”

His daughter, Nell Minow, told The Associated Press in 2011 that her father loved watching TV and hoped he would be remembered for the future. Support the public’s interest in the TV show beyond just a few words in his broader speech.

“His number one goal was to give people a choice,” she said.

Among the new laws during his tenure were 1962, which required televisions to receive UHF and VHF broadcasts , which opens the above numbered TV channel for wide viewing. Congress also passed a bill to fund educational television and took steps to foster communications satellites.

In a September 2006 interview, Minow recalled that NPR told Kennedy that such satellites were “more It’s more important to send people into space. …Communication satellites send ideas into space, and ideas outlive people.” In July , 1962, Minow was the first official to make a statement on live transatlantic television One, the show featured AT&T’s Telstar satellite.

Minow, who has a particular interest in children’s programming and is a father of three, told the broadcaster that the few good children’s shows “are overwhelmed by a lot of cartoons, violence and more overwhelmed by the violence. …Examine your conscience and see if you can’t provide more for your young beneficiaries, whose future you spend so many hours every day.”

Minow resigned 1962 in May to become Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. in Chicago.

Nell Minow said her father was also instrumental in televised presidential debates, starting with Kennedy and Richard N. Nixon, after seeing Stevenson in 1952 after trying to use new media during the presidential campaign.

“Minow is appalled by the whole game … of having to make an image on television,” said Craig Allen, a professor of mass communication at Arizona State University, who wrote a 2001 books about Minow.

In 1965, Minow returns to his law practice in Chicago and later as a PBS, CBS Inc. and board member of advertising firm Foote Cone & Belding Communications Inc. He is director of the Annenberg Washington Program in Communication Policy Research at Northwestern University.

He also gave Barack Obama a summer job at a law firm where the future president met His wife, Michelle Robinson. Minow was also one of Obama’s earliest supporters when the then-Illinois senator considered running for president, Nell Minow said.

Television is one of the most important advances of this century “However, as a nation, we don’t care about it,” Minow said in 1991 said in an interview with the Associated Press.

He continues to push for reforms such as political ads and more free airtime on premium programming, while also praising progress in diversity on American TV.

“At 1962, I worry that my kids won’t get much from TV. But in 1965 I worry that my grandchildren will actually be harmed,” he said.



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