50 Years Later, What Does the Man Behind the Famous ‘Vast Wasteland’ Speech Think of TV?

Apr 20, 2011  •  Post A Comment

Newton Minow, the former Federal Communications Commission chairman who described TV as a "vast wasteland" 50 years ago in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, was asked by Advertising Age’s Rance Crain whether he thinks that statement is still true of TV.

"It’s vaster, certainly," Minow said. But he noted there have been improvements, too. Television, he said, now gives viewers a "wider range of choice. That was the main thing I tried to do. At the time I was at the FCC there were two-and-a-half commercial television networks, there was no public television, no satellite."

At the time, many cities just had one television station, Minow pointed out. "The most constructive thing the FCC could do was to expand choice. And in that we certainly succeeded," he told Crain in the piece. As for the downsides of so many choices, Minow noted, "We’ve lost the common shared experience. I think it’s increased the polarization of opinion."

[NOTE: Besides writing a column for Ad Age, Rance Crain is also Editor in Chief and President of Crain Communications, the company that publishes TVWeek.]

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