Half a Century of the ‘Vast Wasteland’

Posted on May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Fifty years ago today, my dad, Newton Minow, the 35-year old Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, spoke to the National Association of Broadcasters.  What he said was so ground-breaking and so resonant that it has been included in many collections of the best speeches of the 20th century.  It has also been used as an LSAT question, a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” answer, and, most memorably, as the inspiration for the name of the sinking ship on Gilligan’s Island.

Tonight, Dad will appear at the National Press Club with the current Chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, to talk about the impact of the speech, the stunning revolution in media and technology over the past five decades, and what lies ahead.  If you’re not able to come, you can watch “From Wasteland to Broadband” on C-SPAN

Some tributes and commentaries on the anniversary:

Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times: Television’s Curse was Its Blessing

James Warren’s interview with Dad for the Chicago News Cooperative: Never Mind the ‘Vast Wasteland’ — Newton Minow Has More to Say

Bob Lerhman in Politico: Minow’s Whale of a Speech

Katie O’Brien on WBEZ: Is Television Still a Vast Wasteland?

James Fallows in The Atlantic: Worth Watching — Newton Minow 50 Years Later

Tony Mauro in Legal Times: 50 Years Later, Minow Reflects on ‘Vast Wasteland’ Speech

Jess Bravin in the Wall Street Journal: Vast Wasteland: Marking the 50th Anniversary

On the Media


And my dad’s own views about the NAB conference and what happened afterward.

I am very, very proud of my wonderful parents, who have not only devoted their lives to healing the world, from the most individual, personal attention to the most monumental change (Dad helped to create and currently co-chairs the system of Presidential debates), but who set an example for my sisters and me of integrity, fairness, and dedication to family that will always inspire us to do better.


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