Newton N. Minow

Executive / Former FCC Chairman


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Newton Minow discusses how he began his legal career as a law clerk to Chief Justice Fred Vinson. He describes how he went on to become a partner with Adlai Stevenson and helped in his presidential campaigns. He then talks about how, in 1961, President Kennedy tapped him to become the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. During his interview, Minow discusses at length the impact of his first speech as FCC chairman where he referred to television as a "vast wasteland." He describes the impact of his criticisms and his relationship to the Kennedy presidency. He also speaks about his championing of public television and satellite communications. He also discusses how, after two years, he left the FCC and returned to private practice where he continues today. Chuck Olin conducted the interview in Chicago, IL on July 21, 1999.

"To my way of thinking, that speech was badly misinterpreted. It didn't condemn all of television. It said there are great things in television which are unique in uniting and serving the country, but you, the broadcasters, have got to remember that you are trustees for all of us. That you have got to pay more attention to your obligations to children. You've got to pay more attention to not only the bottom line, but to public service."

Highlights
Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on what he was trying to convey in his 1961 "Vast Wasteland" speech
02:21
Newton Minow on his role as FCC chair, his views on American programming and the FCC's television policies; on his work with children's television and news; on working with the networks; on the legislation he worked to enact: the All Channel Act requiring a UHF tuner as well as a VHF tuner on all television set, the Aid To Educational Television. and the Communications Satellite Act; on his contributions to public television
Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on arranging for Voice of America broadcasts on commercial stations during the Cuban Missile Crisis
05:48
Newton Minow on his opinion of the television industry and its failure to remain in the public interest
02:49
Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on the history of the FCC
04:42
Full Interview

Chapter 1

Introduction
00:10
On his early years and education; on his World War II military service; on pursuing a law degree at Northwestern University; on working as a Supreme Court law clerk for Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson; on working on Adlai Stevenson's 1952 presidential campaign; on becoming acquainted with the Kennedy family

Chapter 2

On returning to private law practice in 1953 
07:26
On working on John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign; on being appointed Chairman of the FCC in 1961; on Kennedy's vision for telecommunications; on leaving the FCC prematurely
16:25
On the history of the FCC; on the state of the FCC upon his arrival
04:42

Chapter 3

On the makeup of the FCC at the time of his chairmanship; on moving to Washington, D.C.
07:41
On President John F. Kennedy's 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), where he focused on the openness of the United States' space program to the media; on his own May 9, 1961 speech to NAB which became known as the "Vast Wasteland" speech; on the reactions to the speech
17:07
On the Cold War; on arranging for Voice of America broadcasts on commercial stations during the Cuban Missile Crisis
05:48

Chapter 4

On working with commercial stations during the Cuban Missile Crisis (continued); on American programming and the FCC's television policies; on his work with children's television and news; on working with the networks; on the legislation he worked to enact: the All Channel Act requiring a UHF tuner as well as a VHF tuner on all television set, the Aid To Educational Television. and the Communications Satellite Act 
On his and the FCC's role in public television; on leaving his position as FCC chairman; on his work on the board of Chicago's Channel 11 public television station

Chapter 5

On his role in the administration of PBS (after he left the FCC); on the importance of Presidential debates
03:52
On joining the board of CBS; on William S. Paley and Frank Stanton
04:27
On his work in education; on his thoughts on the future of the television industry; on his opinion of the responsibilities of broadcasters; on television audiences; on some of the people he worked with in his career

Chapter 6

On some individuals he's known including Adlai Stevenson, Studs Terkel, his law partner Howard Trienens; on an incident at WTTW regarding producing Birds of the Iron Feather; Walter Cronkite, Walter Annenberg; on his publications; on his wife
Shows

Bird of the Iron Feather

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Newton Minow on an argument he had at public station WTTW in Chicago during the 1970 development of the first Black-produced television drama Birds of the Iron Feather, where Jesse Jackson and other Civil Rights leaders demanded an all-Black crew
02:22
Topics

Cold War

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Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on arranging for Voice of America broadcasts on commercial stations during the Cuban Missile Crisis
05:48

Criticism of TV

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Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on what he was trying to convey in his 1961 "Vast Wasteland" speech
02:21
Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on Joseph Kennedy and Edward R. Murrow's reaction to his 1961 "Vast Wasteland" speech
01:59
Newton Minow on whether he still sees television as 1961's "vast wasteland" in 1999
00:55

Industry Crossroads

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Newton Minow on his role as FCC chair, his views on American programming and the FCC's television policies; on his work with children's television and news; on working with the networks; on the legislation he worked to enact: the All Channel Act requiring a UHF tuner as well as a VHF tuner on all television set, the Aid To Educational Television. and the Communications Satellite Act; on his contributions to public television

John F. Kennedy

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Newton Minow on being appointed Chairman of the FCC by John F. Kennedy
13:18
Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on President John F. Kennedy's opinion of ranking the best presidents
02:31
Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on President John F. Kennedy's 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, where he focused on the openness of the United States' space program to the media
06:37

Minorities

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Newton Minow on an argument he had at public station WTTW in Chicago during the 1970 development of the first Black-produced television drama B irds of the Iron Feather, where Jesse Jackson and other Civil Rights leaders demanded an all-Black crew
02:22

Technological Innovation

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Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on John F. Kennedy's vision for satellite communications
02:32

Television Industry

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Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on the history of the FCC
04:42
Former FCC chair Newton Minow on serving on CBS' board (starting in 1983)
04:27
Newton Minow on his opinion of the television industry and its failure to remain in the public interest
02:49
Genres

Children's Programming

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FCC chair Newton Minow on his views and hopes for children's programming
01:46
People

Walter Annenberg

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Newton Minow on Walter Annenberg
00:35

John F. Kennedy

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Newton Minow on Presidential-candidate John F. Kennedy's early meeting with Adlai Stevenson
03:07

Edward R. Murrow

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Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on Joseph Kennedy and Edward R. Murrow's reaction to his 1961 "Vast Wasteland" speech
01:59

William S. Paley

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Former FCC chair Newton Minow on serving on CBS' board (starting in 1983)
04:27

Pierre Salinger

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Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on arranging for Voice of America broadcasts on commercial stations during the Cuban Missile Crisis
05:48

David Sarnoff

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FCC chair Newton Minow on meeting with RCA head David Sarnoff regarding the number of network-owned stations permitted and on the threatened antitrust action regarding RCA's development of color television
02:47

Alan Shepard

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Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow on President John F. Kennedy's 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, where he focused on the openness of the United States' space program to the media
06:37

Frank Stanton

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Former FCC chair Newton Minow on serving on CBS' board (starting in 1983)
04:27

Adlai Stevenson

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Newton Minow on working on Adlai Stevenson's 1952 presidential bid
Newton Minow on Presidential-candidate John F. Kennedy's early meeting with Adlai Stevenson
03:07

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