Newton Minow’s speech “Television and the Public Interest” (65) is a speech that some may argue could hold just as true today as it did in 1961. Minow, who was giving his first address as the new chairman of the FCC, said that in his position he had two main concerns for TV broadcasters – their health and their product. In regards to the health of the TV industry, they were doing well in 1961 – making a profit during a recession. However, Minow argued that their product was worrisome.
Minow described the majority of TV programming as a “vast wasteland” (p. 467). He listed examples of the hours of programming that was filled with game shows, violence, formula comedies… In his speech he worked to encourage broadcasters to show more concern for “public interest.” He defined public interest not as what the public wanted, but as what the public needed – healthy television. I appreciated his parody of Churchill’s famous line; Minow said, “Never have so few owed so much to so many” (p. 467). He meant that while entertainment (the programming he considered to be a part of the wasteland) might make a profit, broadcasters had a responsibility to provide programming that would mentally stimulate or inform the public.