#1LinerWeds from Newton Minow

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.

Newton N. Minow

One of the more famous speeches ever delivered was “Television and the Public Interest,” in which FCC Chairman Newton Minow, speaking to the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961, declared TV to be a “vast wasteland.” I wonder what he’d say today?

Have a good Independence Day or July 4th, whichever it is where you live, and don’t forget to wear sunscreeen.


One-Liner Wednesday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now here’s Bugs Bunny for Post Alpha-Bits Cereal.

21 thoughts on “#1LinerWeds from Newton Minow

  1. He seems prophetic, or else standards haven’t changed much. I’d have constant nausea and headaches if I sat and watched all day.

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    1. Oh, it’s gotten much worse, with thousands of cable stations providing 168 hours a week worth of “content.” Minow (who’s still alive, by the way) did this speech back in the day when markets had at most six TV stations (Chicago had five) broadcasting 8-16 hours a day.

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  2. Oh I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I’d be a raving lunatic by the end of the 24 hour period. There are some shows I enjoy, but now since my computer is solely in my office, the 1-2 hours a day of television watching has dropped to 1-2 hours a week. Now if I want to watch something, I have to come out and specifically just sit and watch. So it doesn’t happen.

    A funny thought just crossed my mind – I was babysitting while our neighbor worked one night a week at the pizza parlor. (About 1972-1973) So she wasn’t home until about 1 am. The TV channel was off before she’d get home, with that gray and white ‘off’ logo they had. So I’d just fall asleep on the couch until she woke me up. Not anymore. Now there’s never any ‘off’ time.

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  3. Yeah, not happening here. I can watch certain programs for a while but not the constant stream of stupid they have on now. Maybe binge watching a Netflix series perhaps.

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    1. Mary’s sat and watched series like that. I haven’t, though I like the idea. There were some really great syndicated series from the ’50’s and ’60’s that I’d like to see again (e.g. “Highway Patrol,” “The Everglades,” “Sea Hunt,” etc.).

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  4. When I was much younger, I think I might have enjoyed this. Now it would be pure torture. Plus, the longer I sit, the harder it is to get up.

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  5. It’s relative. One man’s vast wasteland is another man’s treasure trove. With more viewing options now than ever I could find a days worth to watch. I’d have to channel surf though. I vaguely remember the Star Spangle Banner at sign off back in the day. Our goal as kids on Friday nights was to make it until the channel got snowy.

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    1. I think “a vast wasteland” is overstating the case. A lot of TV when Minow made the speech was actually quite good. Sure, there was garbage, but unless you lived where there was just one TV station, you had options, and nothing would stop you from turning the set off and listening to the radio, reading a book, enjoying any of thousands of hobbles, etc. Those options are still available, of course, but not many take advantage of them.

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    2. Oh, and YouTube has lots of examples of TV stations going off the air and coming back on it, in case you feel nostalgic. I always think of a signoff as the TV telling you “TV’s over, go to bed.”

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