‘Vast wasteland:’ Former FCC chairperson Newt Minow shares memories of television, presidential debates, JFK


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The way we watch television, and what we watch in many ways, was shaped back in the 1960s by a man named Newton “Newt” Minow.

A distinguished lawyer, he served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Minow has also been part of every television presidential debate since 1960.

The 94-year-old is still practicing law, and sat down with NewsNation anchor Joe Donlon last week to talk about TV, politics, his relationship with President John F. Kennedy and two words he used in a speech, that are still quoted today, almost 50 years later.

“When television is good, nothing â€” not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers â€” nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

Newt Minow in his famous National Association of Broadcasters convention speech on May 9, 1961

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