Newton N. Minow

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Newton N. Minow (1926-), FCC Chairman 1961-63 (appointed by John F. Kennedy), lawyer, author, activist on behalf of quality television, organizer of Presidential debates.


Speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, May 9, 1961 (the Wasteland Speech)

  • When television is good, nothing--not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers--nothing is better.

    But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.
  • What do we mean by "the public interest?" Some say the public interest is merely what interests the public. I disagree.
  • We need imagination in programming, not sterility; creativity, not imitation; experimentation, not conformity; excellence, not mediocrity. Television is filled with creative, imaginative people. You must strive to set them free.


  • Sending communications satellites will be much more important than sending man into space because they will send ideas into space. Ideas last longer than men.
  • We've got a real irony here... We have politicians selling access to something we all own— our government. And then we have broadcasters selling access to something we all own— our airwaves. It's a terrible system.

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