Newton N. Minow is an American attorney and a former Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). On May 9, 1961 upon Minow’s inauguration of becoming the new Chairman of the FCC, he shared a truly captivating speech that characterized television as insensible violence, imbecilic comedy, and insulting advertisements.
I truly applaud Minow not only for the words of his speech but for the speech itself. His true care and verbal heartfelt concern of television and the public interest gave liberation and a true feeling of, “the future is now” to the people of America. Through Minow’s brawn words you could feel the sincerity and veracity in his voice; the passion he holds in his views and obligations of his new position, and foresights. I immensely admire Minow’s speech in gross because he showed profound care and concern for his position as Chairman, and whether you agree with his stance on the issues he talks about or not, I think his extensive overwhelming regard and effort is honorable in itself.
It is undeniable that this was an alluring and flawlessly written speech, truly captivating its audience. The way Minow opened his speech by expressing his understanding and appreciation of broadcasters and broadcasting showed great charisma of Minow. He understands that there is considerable competition in broadcasting and it’s become a devilish business of numbers, ratings, and popularity. However, Minow then proceeds to tear broadcasting apart as a too commercial platform, expressing a moral stance on its obligation to the people. In which he brings up the idea of “public interest” and what it means. I at first was a little thrown off when Minow first expressed his thoughts of “public interest,” but after his explanation I couldn’t agree more with his stance. As he states in his speech,
“Now what do we mean by “the public interest?” Some say the public interest is merely what interest the public. I disagree. And so does your distinguished president, Governor Collins. In a recent speech – ‘Broadcasting to serve the public interest, must have a soul and a conscience, a burning desire to excel, as well as to sell; the urge to build the character, citizenship, and intellectual stature of people, as well as to expand the gross national product. By no means do I imply that broadcasters disregard the public interest. But a much better job can be done, and should be done.’ I could not agree more with Governor Collins. And I would add that…..in a time of peril and opportunity, the old complacent, unbalanced fare of action-adventure and situation comedies is simply not good enough… Your industry possesses the most powerful voice in America. It has an inescapable duty to make that voice ring with intelligence and with leadership.”
This is very true and goes to show that television has become more of a form of profit, entertainment, and popularity, rather than reflecting the reality of our world and broadcasting more current events or educational bits. I agree with Minow’s stance on the idea of “public interest” and how it needs to expand to be more conscience, soulful, and intellectual, because our world has so much more going on than what trouble Lucy is getting into on I Love Lucy. After Minow brought this up I began to feel that “public interest” is not a real concept at all, because everyone has different tastes, and the ratings of shows are not completely accurate and turns broadcasting in to a popularity contest of business, rather than of a moral importance to the people. Thus, the public interest is more of the idea of what the people need to be informed about, rather than their basic entertainment wants. Broadcasting owes the people, because the people own the air.
Furthering Minow’s expression of rankings in broadcasting, one of my favorite parts in his speech, he brings up one of the most on point explanations and examples as to why rankings have been used incorrectly. He states,
“If parents, teachers, and ministers conducted their responsibilities by following the ratings, children would have a steady diet of ice cream, school holidays, and no Sunday school. What about your responsibilities? Is there no room on television to teach, to inform, to uplift, to stretch, to enlarge the capacities of our children? Is there no room for programs deepening their understanding of children in other lands? Is there no room for a children’s news show explaining something to them about the world at their level of understanding? Is there no room for reading the great literature of the past, for teaching them the great traditions of freedom? There are some fine children’s shows, but they are drowned out in the massive doses of cartoons, violence, and more violence. Must these be your trademarks? Search your consciences and see if you cannot offer more to your young beneficiaries whose future you guide so many hours each and every day… Broadcasting cannot continue to live by the numbers. Ratings ought to be the slave of the broadcaster, not his master.”
I thought this was a phenomenal explanation, as well as a very compelling one since we are talking about the future of America’s children. It is so true. If children got to do things by their ratings, they would be sugar induced and playing outside all day. This example extremely exemplifies Minow’s view that ratings are nothing in a matter like this where individuals are given the opportunity to connect with the world and share important current events and experiences. I agree tremendously with Minow and believe that broadcasting [during the time of this speech] should be more than just an outlet for entertainment, but a way for people to be informed and connect with other parts of American and eventually the rest of the world. Furthermore, Minow adds,
“The FCC will always encourage a fair and responsible clash of opinion… You must provide a wider range of choice, more diversity, more alternatives. It is not enough to cater to the nation’s whims; you must also serve the nation’s needs…The people own the air. And they own it as much in prime evening time as they do at six o’clock Sunday morning. For every hour that the people give you – you owe them something. And I intend to see that your debt is paid with service.”
I love this. Everyone has a different opinion on matters, and no opinion is wrong nor right, it’s just a perspective. In which I think Minow’s notion to have a fair share of outlooks on television broadcasting is important to catering the people’s needs of matters and their different viewpoints. As well as its importance to individuals’ awareness of other perspectives on those affairs, in which they can asset their own perspectives more individually. I am a huge advocate for that in general. It is important that the people have resources to something like that, in which they are given true important current information on true important current matters. We need diversity because that is America’s foundation, and television [during this time and now] needs to reflect that as well.
Moreover, looking at Minow’s bit on local broadcasting he brings up very accurate points about the matter. Stating,
“Too many local stations have foregone any efforts at local programming, with little use of live talent and local service. Too many local stations operate with one hand on the network switch and the other on a projector loaded with old movies. We want the individual stations to be free to meet their legal responsibilities to serve their communities.”
This is accurate, even for our current television broadcasting today. Local broadcasting’s aren’t truly doing its duty to its local audiences, and local broadcasting are some of the most important broadcasting’s. They helps bring communities together and keep its people updated on community events and matter. I tremendously admire Minow’s acknowledgment on this, because I think this is [was] a core issue that should be addressed in broadcasting. Even though local broadcasting’s are smaller channels they have a higher obligation to its audience that prime-time shows, because their audiences are more direct.
Furthermore, Minow takes his job a step further and states that he will get feedback from the public to ensure that broadcasting is meeting their needs,
“But simply matching promises and performance is not enough. I intend to do more. I intend to find out whether the people care. I intend to find out whether the community which each broadcaster serves believes he has been serving the public interest. When a renewal is set down for a hearing, I intend, whenever possible, to hold a well-advertised public hearing, right in the community you have promised to serve. I want the people who own the air and the homes that television enters to tell you and the FCC what’s been going on. I want the people — if they’re truly interested in the service you give them — to make notes, document cases, tell us the facts.”
I found this unbelievable. I love the fact that Minow tremendously cares for the future of broadcasting and intends to get feedback from the people. I think that is so impressive, and goes to show that Minow is taking his position as chairman seriously, wanting the people to benefit and have input with him directly about broadcasting. That is true dedication and application by Minow and I admire that so much.
Lastly, I want to bring up my favorite point that Minow brings up. The idea of broadcasting overall, and its future. Stating,
“Television will rapidly join the parade into space. International television will be with us soon. No one knows how long it will be until a broadcast from a studio in New York will be viewed in India as well as in Indiana, will be seen in the Congo as it is seen in Chicago. But as surely as we are meeting here today, that day will come; and once again our world will shrink… What will the people of other countries think of us when they see our western bad men and good men punching each other in the jaw in between the shooting? What will the Latin American or African child learn of America from this great communications industry? We cannot permit television in its present form to be our voice overseas.”
Minow completely turns broadcasting upside-down as a way of profit, and into a moral obligation for the people and of America’s reputation. I love this so very much, because it is so very true. Putting aside money and profits, Minow expresses the future of television broadcasting as becoming international, and thus the importance of America’s representation to other countries, in which he is absolutely right. The home of the free needed to be more diverse and intellectual with its broadcasting, it is [was] vital in its representation of America and obligation not only to American’s but to the rest of the world. Overall, this was a truly admirable speech given by Newton Minow, and did justice in his advancements and improvements of broadcasting, specifically television broadcasting.
In our modern era of broadcasting, I think some parts of Minow’s speech is still relevant, however, I think to some extent more of it is the viewers’ responsibility. With the internet and the ability for people to truly watch whatever they want whenever they want, there is an obligation with the viewer to take initiative and become informed about their community, the rest of the world, and educational subjects on their own. However, it is still broadcasting networks job to provide the people with these resources and options. Minow’s speech still stands. Broadcasters owe the people, because the people own the air, and America’s reputation will always be of importance. I overall truly enjoyed Minow’s speech and think it was one of the best speeches every made, especially for the issue of broadcasting and media. Media is a very important subject matter that shapes our world constantly, and Minow’s sincere concern is very admirable and should still be noted to this day.