`VAST WASTELAND' SPEECH HOLDS TRUE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
, April 24, 2001, page 17
This is an edited version of Newton Minow's speech to the National Association of
Broadcasters on May 9, 1961:
Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you today. This is my first public address since I
took over my new job. It may also come as a surprise to some of you, but I want you to know
that you have my admiration and respect.
I admire your courage--but that doesn't mean I would make life any easier for you. Your
license lets you use the public's airwaves as trustees for 180 million Americans. The public is
your beneficiary. If you want to stay on as trustees, you must deliver a decent return to the
public--not only to your stockholders. So, as a representative of the public, your health and
your product are among my chief concerns.
I have confidence in your health. But not in your product.
I am here to uphold and protect
the public interest.
What do we mean by "the public interest?" Some say the public interest
is merely what interests the public. I disagree.
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
You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula
comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism,
murder, western badmen, 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 will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very
few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it.
Sentenced to prime time