Fifty years ago this month, the phrase “vast wasteland” entered the national lexicon when Newton Minow, then chair of the FCC, spoke before the National Association of Broadcasters. It even inspired Hollywood producer Sherwood Schwartz to name the sinking ship in Gilligan’s Island after him.
In the April 2011 issue of The Atlantic, Minow reflects on what has transpired in these last five decades since he first called television programming little more than “a procession of game shows . . . violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons.” Well, at least we got rid of the Westerns!
He goes on to make six provocative proposals for the next fifty years of television.
- Commit to freedom of speech and editorial independence in news and information, especially through the internet.
- While we established land-grant colleges 150 years ago by giving them land they could sell to fund themselves, today we should give them the airwaves to sell in order to fund themselves.
- Expand telemedicine, “using wireless communications and high-definition imaging to provide preventive health care at low cost,” something developed countries use far more than we do.
- “Build and maintain a new and secure communications network as a national-security priority” so we don’t end up with public safety and government personnel unable to communicate when disaster strikes as it did on 9/11.
- Give greater support to public radio and television—especially relatively inexpensive radio, while consolidating overlapping public TV stations in given markets.
- Give free air time to politicians to help take money (especially the influence of big money) out of the equation for campaigns.
This seems like a good start to me. What would you recommend?