Federal Communications Law Journal

Trade journal covering communications law. Published in cooperation with the Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington.

Articles from Vol. 55, No. 3, May

A Diversity of Voices in a "Vast Wasteland"
I believe Newton N. Minow had a crystal ball. In 1961, in his first speech as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"), he challenged members of the National Association of Broadcasters to: [S]it down in front of your television...
A Vast Ye Wasteland: Reflections on America's Most Famous Exercise in "Public Interest" Piracy
You have to admire Newton Minow. You really do. On May 9, 1961, JFK's youthful FCC Chairman strode confidently to the podium at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention and delivered a stinging rebuke of his hosts' business. Right there,...
Coming of Age in Minnesota
Some years ago, I spoke at a conference on privacy, hosted by the now-defunct Freedom Forum Pacific Coast Center in Oakland, California. (1) My fellow panelists and I spent about two hours discussing the law and ethics governing news gathering and...
"Do You Believe in Miracles?" (Television)
The scene was the 1980 Winter Olympic Hockey Arena at Lake Placid, New York. Late in the third period, American team Captain Mike Eruzione hit a wrist shot past the goalie for the heavily favored Soviet hockey squad. This put the lightly regarded Americans...
Editor's Note
Welcome to the third issue of Volume 55 of the Federal Communications Law Journal. Volume 55 marks the tenth anniversary of the co-publishing arrangement between the Federal Communications Bar Association and the Indiana University School of Law--Bloomington....
Electronic Oases Take Root in Mr. Minow's Vast Wasteland
The famous "Vast Wasteland" speech that Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") Chairman Newt Minow delivered to a roomful of broadcast industry partisans in 1961 has influenced telecommunications policy, as well as perceptions of television itself....
Family-Friendly Programming: Providing More Tools for Parents
Since then-Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minow dubbed television a "vast wasteland" in 1961, the medium has changed dramatically. Consumers today have so many programs from which to choose that the complaint is rarely a lack...
Forty Years of Wandering in the Wasteland
For the first time in human history we have available to us the ability ... to furnish entertainment, instruction, widening vision of national problems and national events. An obligation rests on us to see that it is devoted to real service and to...
From Vast Wasteland to Electronic Garden: Responsibilities in the New Video Environment
Newton Minow's "Vast Wasteland" speech (1) set a tone for his tenure at the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"), and will forever be associated with Minow's very distinguished legal career. It was brave, brash, and on point. It suggested a lack...
Good News for Good News: Excellent Television Journalism Benefits Networks and Our Society
Newton Minow told broadcasters in 1961 that more news and public affairs programming would help erase the vast wasteland of television. (1) He was wrong. Forty years later, a television viewer can watch what is labeled as "news" all day, yet the wasteland...
How Do We Make Goodness Attractive?
Prior to his death, Fred Rogers agreed to contribute this Essay, excerpted from the remarks and the acceptance speech he gave in 1999 at his induction into the Television Hall of Fame, in recognition both of Newton Minow, a fellow advocate in the quest...
I Want My C-SPAN
A few years ago, Brian Lamb, the founder and public face of C-SPAN, was asked during an interview about Newton Minow's famous indictment of American television. If anyone in the communications industry today has the credentials to brush aside the question,...
Manhattan
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? There is a remarkable difference between television in 1961, when Newton Minow delivered his great "Vast Wasteland" speech, (1) and television in the current era. The difference is the increase in the number of channels. When...
Measuring Quality Television
I have read Newton Minow's famous speech, "Television and the Public Interest," (1) and I decided to assess how (or indeed, whether) the United States's broadcasting industry successfully responded to his challenge to improve the "vast wasteland" that...
Minow and the "Wasteland": Time, Manner, and Place
A chance to reflect on Newton Minow's speech brings three things to mind: the speech itself; the manner of speech-giving by Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") chairs and commissioners; and a place later headed by the gentleman who gave the oration,...
Minow's Viewers: Understanding the Response to the "Vast Wasteland" Address
On May 9, 1961, Newton N. Minow, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC" or "Commission"), gave what is probably the most famous speech ever delivered by the head of an American regulatory agency. It remains the single most...
Promoting Innovation to Prevent the Internet from Becoming a Wasteland
Images of a wasteland abound in our political, economic, and cultural vocabulary. T.S. Eliot, in his famous poem, was drawing on religious representations of a land rendered barren by God's wrath. (1) Eliot was referring to a metaphorical barrenness:...
Promoting the Public Interest in the Digital Era
The issue posed is whether in today's media environment, the public interest is better served than at the time of the "Vast Wasteland" speech. (1) Clearly, it is in some important respects. For example, with cable's increasing importance, there are...
Revisiting the Vast Wasteland
On May 9, 1961, Newton N. Minow gave his first public address as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC" or "Commission"). (1) Little was known at that time about the new Chairman, other than that he was the youngest person ever to...
Screen-Agers ... and the Decline of the "Wasteland."
Newton Minow himself tells the story that the two words from his 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters he originally thought would stand the test of time were not "vast wasteland," but rather, "public interest." (1) He had intended...
Television and the Public Interest
Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you today. This is my first public address since I took over my new job. When the New Frontiersmen rode into town, I locked myself in my office to do my homework and get my feet wet. But apparently I haven't...
The Role of the Federal Communications Commission on the Path from the Vast Wasteland to the Fertile Plain
In 1961, Federal Communications Commission ("FCC" or "Commission") Chairman Newton Minow expressed a lack of confidence in the services provided by broadcasters. (1) He challenged people to sit in front of their television for a day to see if they...
The "Vast Wasteland" in Retrospect
First, a disclosure: I was a newly minted legal assistant to Newton Minow in May 1961, when the speech was given. (1) I and several other staff members had sought to persuade him to drop the "vast wasteland" phrase. I thought it was too intellectual--the...
The "Vast Wasteland" Revisited: Headed for More of the Same?
Things change, but still they stay the same. The broadcast world was in many respects a very different place when the legendary Newton Minow gave his "Vast Wasteland" speech in 1961. At that time, there were only three broadcast television networks,...
The "Vast Wasteland" Speech Revisited
It is fascinating to reread the "Vast Wasteland" speech--Newt Minow's first major policy utterance as the "new frontiersman" assumed the helm at the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC" or "Commission") over forty years ago. There are all sorts...
TV: A Vast Oasis of Public Interest Programming
A presidential candidate once asked: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" The American people answered with a resounding "No." (1) Today's question is, "Is the American public better served by television now than it was forty years...
Whatever Happened to Local News?: The "Vast Wasteland" Reconsidered
Though the speech and phrase were then only six years old, I remember first reading Newton Minow's already classic remarks while taking Telford Taylor's class on communication law at Yale Law School in 1967. Along with several of his other major addresses,...
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