Recently Launched ‘Broadcasting in the Public Interest’ Collection Honors Longtime Media Advocate Newton Minow

Visit the Broadcasting in the Public Interest: The Newton Minow Collection here.

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) honors Newton Minow, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in the new Broadcasting in the Public Interest: The Newton Minow Collection. Minow played an instrumental part in the development of noncommercial television. The collection includes materials in the AAPB that feature Minow, including interviews, panels, testimonies, events and profiles. Materials in the collection were produced between 1961 to 2016 and come from a wide range of series, including The Prospect of Mankind with Eleanor Roosevelt, North Carolina Now, PBS NewsHour and The MacNeil / Lehrer Report.

Visit the Broadcasting in the Public Interest: The Newton Minow Collection here: https://americanarchive.org/special_collections/newtonminow.

‘Television and the Public Interest’

Trained as an attorney, Newton Minow was appointed as FCC Chairman by President Kennedy in 1961, where he served until 1963. He encouraged the communications industry to establish public service television, which eventually culminated in the establishment of public broadcasting in the U.S. Known as a “crusading FCC Chairman,” Minow delivered a speech in May 1961 to the National Association of Broadcasters entitled “Television and the Public Interest,” in which he characterized the commercial television landscape as a “vast wasteland” and advocated instead for public service television. Minow successfully encouraged the commercial networks to expand their nightly news programs from fifteen minutes to half an hour, and while the phrase “vast wasteland” remains part of the national lexicon to this day, Minow’s achievements in the realm of public broadcasting are less widely known.

Minow answers the question, “What is the function of television?” in this episode of New Vistas for Television from the Prospects of Mankind with Eleanor Roosevelt series (1962).

Minow successfully pushed through Congress the Educational Television Facilities Act of 1962 to authorize federal grants for educational station construction and repair, marking the first time that federal funds had been allocated for educational television, a process that led five years later to the passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and the establishment of the nationwide system that exists today.

Minow later became a director of National Educational Television, served on PBS’s Board of Governors from 1973 to 1980, a period when the system strengthened significantly, and was its chair from 1978 to 1980. He has also served as the Chairman of WTTW in Chicago and as a member of the AAPB’s Executive Advisory Council. Minow was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 (see video below), the Peabody Award in 1961, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service and the PBS “Be More” Award in 2016.

Minow being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 by President Obama on PBS NewsHour.

A note from the AAPB Archivist Miranda Villesvik

In writing the Newton Minow special collection, it was amazing to learn the scope of what Minow has done for public broadcasting in the US. Since his career spans such a long period of time, it was important for us to include materials from the entire scope of his career. As such, the materials in the collection currently span 55 years, from 1961-2016. That temporal range is also reflected in the “Featured Items” section.

We also wanted to honor Minow’s geographical range. As a public figure, there are multiple addresses in the collection from Washington, D.C., yet there are also materials including a panel interview in Boston, MA, a gameshow appearance in Trenton, NJ, and a session on broadcasting from Santa Barbara, CA. Since Minow has appeared on so many programs and in so many contexts, we thought it was important to represent the range of those appearances.

Be sure to visit the Broadcasting in the Public Interest: The Newton Minow Collection here: https://americanarchive.org/special_collections/newtonminow.

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