25 Oct After watching the shows, please provide a 300-400 word commentary on the following question: what conclusion could someone make about American society in the 1950s if they ONLY watched th
After watching the shows, please provide a 300-400 word commentary on the following question: what conclusion could someone make about American society in the 1950s if they ONLY watched these shows?
Please answer at least ONE review question from TV in America AND then answer the following from the Television and the Public Interest document:
1. Does the speech provide insight to the impact of television in American society in the 1950s? Does the speech reinforce or challenge how the TV in America article viewed television's role in society?
2. Are the documents on television from the 1950s similar in content and perspective as the document on Radio in the 1920s?
FR'M what TV ls Doing to America (1955)
Television emerged as the most popular form of entertainment after World War II. In th3-Process it transformed leisure time, and, sotTns critics argued, degraded the quality of life' In 1955 U. S. News and World Report magazine aisessed ie impact of the television industry.
copyright september z, Lgss, pp. 36-39. u.s. Ners and world Report.
today is television. There has been nothing like it in the postwar decade, or in -urrv
he biggest of the new forces in American life age. Their parents use up even more time mesmer_ ized by this new marvel-or monster. They have spent 15 billion dollars to look since L946.
Now, after nearly l0 years of TV, people are asking: "What
hath TV wrought? What is thii thing doing to us?"
Solid answers to this question are very hard to get. Pollsters, sociologists, doctors, teachers, the TV people themselves come up with more contradic_ tions than conclusions whenever they start asking.
But almost everybody has an opinion ,rrd wants to air it.
What do these opinions add up to? people have strong views. Here are some widely held convic_ tions, both against and for television:
That TV has kept people from going places and doing things, from reading, from thinking for themselves. Yet it is said also that TV has i"k n viewers vicariously into strange and fascinating spots and situations, brought distinguished and enchanting people into their living rooms, given them a new perspective.
decades before that-perhaps not since the inven_ tion of the printing press. Even radio, by contrast, was a placid experience.
The impact of TV on this country has been so massive that Americans are still wondering what hit them. Has the effect been good or badi What permanent effects on the American way of life may be expected? These and other questions ur. .orr_ sidered in this survey.
Probably there are some people in the U.S. who have never seen a television program, but you would have to go into the hills to find them. iwo out of three U.S. families now own their own sets, or are paylng for them. In 32 million homes, TV dials are flicked on and off from channel to chan_ nel, at least 100 million times between g a.m. and midnight.
Everywhere, children sit with eyes glued to screens-for three to four hours a day on the aver_
306 cHeprnn 32 socrEry AND culrunn, 1945_1960
That TV has interfered with schooling, kept children from learning to read and write, *.Iiirrra their eyesight and softened their muscres. But there are those who hold that TV has made America,s youngsters more ..knowing,'
about life, more curi_ ous, given them a bigger vocabulary. Teaching by TV, educators say, is going to be a big thing irr"thi future.
e v'D sru'6'r urr
That TV arouses morbid emotions in children, glorifies violence, causes juvenile crime_that it starts domestic quarrels, tends to loosen morals and make people lazy and, sodden. Ho*."% l; keeps families together at home, provides a realm of cheap entertainment never Lefore available, stimulates new lines of conversation.
That TV is giving the U.S. an almost primitive language, made up of grunts, whistles, standard_ ized wisecracks and clich€s_that it is turning the average American into a stereotype. yet it is break_ ing down regional barriers and prejudices, ironing out accents, giving people in one part of the cou.r] try a better understanding of people in other p"iir. That TV is milking poliiics ;u ,i.h man,s g;_;J; turning statesmanship into a circus, handinidem- agogues a new weapon. But it is giving Americans their first good look at the insideir ttreir Govern- T:"t,
letting them judg-. the people they elect Cy sight as well as by sound and fury.
That TV has distorted and debased Salesman_ ship, haunting people with singing .,commercials,, and slogans. However, becaurJo, in spite of TV, people are buying more and more things they never before thought they needed or wanted.
. These are just some of the comments that peo_
ple keep on making about TV. The e4perts say that it probably will be another generation before there is a firm basis of knowledge about television,s im_ pact on America.
Today's TV child, the boy or girl who was born with a TV set in his hom9, is toJyoung to analyze his feelings. Older people, despiie the-ir frequent vehemence about TV, are ,titt far from'rtrr. whether they have all Aladdin,s lamp or hold a bear by the tail,
Goliath with tubes. One thing you can be sure
.rblul TV, a giant at 10, continues to grow like no_
body's business. Here are some figur;s and com_ parisons: The t5 billion dollars thaithe U.S. people have invested in TV sets and repairs since the wa, is 15 per cent more than the country spent for rr.* school and college buildings. About a billion more has gone into TV stations and equipment.
TV-viewing time is going up, not down, latest surveys show. This explodes the theory that people would taper off on television ..once
they goi used to it."
of popular TV programs is believed to be very effective. pollsters oport that three times as many people will leave a meal to answer questions at the door as will get up to abandon"Dragnet."
The number of families holding out against TV is declining to a smal fraction. There still are 16 mil- lion families without sets, but most of these fami_ lies either can't pay for sets or else live out "f ;;;g; of TV signals.
On an average evening, twice as many set own_ ers will be watching W as are engaged inany other form of entertainment or leisur! activity, ,uch a, mov-ie-going, card playrng, or reading. Seven out of 10 American children watch TV between 6 and 8 o'clock most evenings.
Analysts are intrigued by the evidence that adults, not children, are the real television fans. The newest trend in viewing habits is a rise in the number of housewives who watch TV in the morn_ ing. One out of five with a set now watches a morning show with regularity.
Wat is it?tMhy do people want TV? A $67.50_ per-week shoe repairman in San Francisco, puts it about as plainly as anyone can. ..TV,',
h. ,u-yr^,..i, the only amusement I can afford." That was the reason he gave for paying four weeks, wages for his set.
The cobbler's comment e4plains TV,s basic lure. It is free entertainment except for the cost of set, and repairs and electricity. Ii becomes so ab_ sorbing that a broken set is a family catastrophe. People will pay to have the set fixed before they wiil pay the milk bill, if necessary.
What does TV do to people? What do people do with TV? The researchers are digging into these questions all the time.In general, they come to the- ories, rather than conclusions. There are three main theories:
THEORY "lf': This is widely held by people whose professions bring them into close contact with juveniles-judges, district attorneys, police officers, ministers. It assumes that TV is bound to be affecting the American mind and character be- cause it soaks up one to five hours a day or more that used to be spent in outdoor play, in games re- quiring reasoning and imagination, or in reading, talking, radio listening, or movie-going.
Even the more passive of these pursuits, the the- ory runs, required more exercise of brain than does TV watching. Then, too, many TV programs, the theorists say, are violent or in questionable taste.
Net effect, according to these people, is a wast- ing away or steady decline in certain basic skills among American youngsters. Children lose the ability to read, forfeit their physical dexteriry strength and initiative.
Some see a definite connection between TV and juvenile delinquency. The Kefauver Subcom- mittee of the Senate fudiciary Committee has just explored this aspect. It stated:
"Members of the subcommittee share the con- cern of a large segment of the thinking public for the implications of the impact of this medium [tel- evision]. . . upon the ethical and cultural standards of the youth of America. It has been unable to gather proof of a direct casual relationship between the viewing of acts of crime and violence and the actual performance of criminal deeds. It has not, however, found irrefutable evidence that young people may not be negatively influenced in their present-day behavior by the saturated exposure they now receive to pictures and drama based on an underlying theme of lawlessness and crime which depict human violence."
THEORY "B": Mainly held by sociologists, communications economists, pollsters. This is that television is changing the American mind and character, although nobody knows for sure just
pnor"r What TV Is Doing to America (1955) 307
how The evidence is too fragmentary. The analysts are disturbed by some aspects of TV's effect on viewers. Some think TV is conditioning Americans to be "other directed," that is, getting their ideas from someone else. The early American, by con- trast, is supposed to have been "inner directed," a man who thought things out for himself on the ba- sis of his own reasoning.
A fanry name for this suspected effect of TV is "narcotic disfunction." This means that more and more men come home in the evening, drop into a chair in front of the TV set after supper and slip into a dream world of unreality.
However, the same researchers confess that TV can have a broadening influence, bringing to the masses a taste of the arts and sciences, a peek into government that they couldn't get any other way.
THEORY "C": This is what the TV people themselves like to think. It is that television is rap- idly becoming "one more service" to the U.S. public, another medium such as newspapers, mag- azines, radio. Some people watch TV a lot, others very little. Most people want a set around, but some don't lean on it.
The TV people minimize the idea that TV is dominating American life. It is almost as if they were afraid their own baby is getting too big. What they usually say is that the people who allow their lives to be controlled by television were similarly dominated by radio and the movies-and that they are only a small minority.
The TV habit. What do the theorists base their theories on? What have they found out about the place of the TV set in American life?
Many studies have been made of the "TV
habit." Latest of these indicates that TV viewing reaches a peak just after a set enters a home, then falls off rather sharply. Next, viewing begins to rise again in the average home, building up, evidently, toward a new peak that is not yet measured.
The A. C. Nielsen Company a market research organization that attaches mechanical recorders to sets in private homes, finds this: During the 12 months ended in April, 1955, average use per
308 cneprrn 32 socrETy AND culTunn, 1945-1960
day of TV sets was 4 hours and 50 minutes. That was up 4 per cent over the year before. . . .
Other studies indicate that women watch TV more than men do. Children, contrary to general impression, watch TV less than adults in thep average home. Persons low in income, educa- tion or job status as a rule spend more time in front of TV sets than those with more money and education.
What's on TV. What do people get on TV? What do they want? Three out of every four TV programs are entertainment shows. . . . In a typical week of the peak TV season, in |anuary of last year, crime, comedy, variety and Western shows ac- counted for 42.7 per cent of all TV program time on New York City screens. News accounted for 6.1 per cent of TV time-about the same share of time as was taken by quiz, stunt and contest shows. Other informational types of TV shows, such as in- terviews, weather reports, travelogues, children's instructional programs and cooking classes, got 16.2 per cent of the time.
Rating figures tend to show that people are get- ting just about what they want, in the opinion of the broadcasting industry. According to the "pop-
ularity" ratings of top shows, comedy and drama and straight entertainment are outpulling every- thing else.
What about information? The popularity cards seem to indicate the reaction is a stifled yawn. In a two-week period last June, when two comedy pro- grams, the 'lGeorge Gobel Show" and "I Love Lucy," were at the top of the list, each reaching more than 13 million homes, the top-ranking in-
formational programs were way down the line. The "March of Medicine," for example, was No. 62, reaching 6.57 million homes; "Meet the Press" was No. 150, getting to 1.14 million families.
Studies also have been made of how long vari- ous programs hold their audiences. Love and ad- venture performances, it develops, will keep about 85 per cent of the audience to the end. By contrast, the most gripping historical sketches hold only 65 per cent, and many hold less than one third of their starting viewers. Informational programs, again, rank near the bottom in "holding power."
Television critics, who write about TV pro- grams in newspapers and magazines, are frequently harsh in their remarks about violence, sadism, bad taste on the screen. However, Dallas W. Smythe, a professor of communications economics at the University of Illinois, analyzed New York City pro- grams for 1955 and concludes that programs which critics liked best seldom drew the biggest au- diences.
The public is fickle. Top rating is hard to hold. The viewers tire rapidly of a particular show unless the producers manage to come up with fresh ma- terial, new appeals.
RrvrEw QUESTToNS 1. Summarize the supposedly negative effects of
watching television. 2. What were the benefits of television? 3. Which concerns about television strike you as
being equally relevant today?
SPEECH-FINAL 4/9/2003 2:55 PM
Television and the Public Interest
Newton N. Minow*
Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you today. This is my first public address since I took over my new job. When the New Frontiersmen rode into town, I locked myself in my office to do my homework and get my feet wet. But apparently I haven’t managed to stay out of hot water. I seem to have detected a certain nervous apprehension about what I might say or do when I emerged from that locked office for this, my maiden station break.
First, let me begin by dispelling a rumor. I was not picked for this job because I regard myself as the fastest draw on the New Frontier.
Second, let me start a rumor. Like you, I have carefully read President Kennedy’s messages about the regulatory agencies, conflict of interest and the dangers of ex parte contacts. And of course, we at the Federal Communications Commission will do our part. Indeed, I may even suggest that we change the name of the FCC to The Seven Untouchables!
It may also come as a surprise to some of you, but I want you to know that you have my admiration and respect. Yours is a most honorable profession. Anyone who is in the broadcasting business has a tough row to hoe. You earn your bread by using public property. When you work in broadcasting, you volunteer for public service, public pressure and public regulation. You must compete with other attractions and other investments, and the only way you can do it is to prove to us every three years that you should have been in business in the first place.
I can think of easier ways to make a living. But I cannot think of more satisfying ways.
* Newton N. Minow, Speech Before the National Association of Broadcasters (May 9, 1961), reprinted in NEWTON N. MINOW, EQUAL TIME: THE PRIVATE BROADCASTER AND THE
PUBLIC INTEREST (Lawrence Laurent ed., 1964).
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396 FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS LAW JOURNAL [Vol. 55
I admire your courage—but that doesn’t mean I would make life any easier for you. Your license lets you use the public’s airwaves as trustees for 180 million Americans. The public is your beneficiary. If you want to stay on as trustees, you must deliver a decent return to the public—not only to your stockholders. So, as a representative of the public, your health and your product are among my chief concerns.
As to your health: let’s talk only of television today. In 1960 gross broadcast revenues of the television industry were over $1,268,000,000; profit before taxes was $243,900,000—an average return on revenue of 19.2 per cent. Compare this with 1959, when gross broadcast revenues were $1,163,900,000, and profit before taxes was $222,300,000, an average return on revenue of 19.1 per cent. So the percentage increase of total revenues from 1959 to 1960 was 9 per cent, and the percentage increase of profit was 9.7 per cent. This, despite a recession. For your investors, the price has indeed been right.
I have confidence in your health. But not in your product. It is with this and much more in mind that I come before you today. One editorialist in the trade press wrote that “the FCC of the New
Frontier is going to be one of the toughest FCC’s in the history of broadcast regulation.” If he meant that we intend to enforce the law in the public interest, let me make it perfectly clear that he is right—we do.
If he meant that we intend to muzzle or censor broadcasting, he is dead wrong.
It would not surprise me if some of you had expected me to come here today and say in effect, “Clean up your own house or the government will do it for you.”
Well, in a limited sense, you would be right—I’ve just said it. But I want to say to you earnestly that it is not in that spirit that I
come before you today, nor is it in that spirit that I intend to serve the FCC. I am in Washington to help broadcasting, not to harm it; to strengthen
it, not weaken it; to reward it, not punish it; to encourage it, not threaten it; to stimulate it, not censor it.
Above all, I am here to uphold and protect the public interest. What do we mean by “the public interest”? Some say the public
interest is merely what interests the public. I disagree. So does your distinguished president, Governor Collins. In a recent
speech he said, “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
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Number 3] TELEVISION AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST 397
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. And I would add that in today’s world, with chaos in Laos and the
Congo aflame, with Communist tyranny on our Caribbean doorstep and relentless pressure on our Atlantic alliance, with social and economic problems at home of the gravest nature, yes, and with technological knowledge that makes it possible, as our President has said, not only to destroy our world but to destroy poverty around the world—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. In a few years this exciting industry has grown from a novelty to an instrument of overwhelming impact on the American people. It should be making ready for the kind of leadership that newspapers and magazines assumed years ago, to make our people aware of their world.
Ours has been called the jet age, the atomic age, the space age. It is also, I submit, the television age. And just as history will decide whether the leaders of today’s world employed the atom to destroy the world or rebuild it for mankind’s benefit, so will history decide whether today’s broadcasters employed their powerful voice to enrich the people or debase them.
If I seem today to address myself chiefly to the problems of television, I don’t want any of you radio broadcasters to think we’ve gone to sleep at your switch—we haven’t. We still listen. But in recent years most of the controversies and crosscurrents in broadcast programming have swirled around television. And so my subject today is the television industry and the public interest.
Like everybody, I wear more than one hat. I am the Chairman of the FCC. I am also a television viewer and the husband and father of other television viewers. I have seen a great many television programs that seemed to me eminently worthwhile, and I am not talking about the much- bemoaned good old days of “Playhouse 90” and “Studio One.”
I am talking about this past season. Some were wonderfully entertaining, such as “The Fabulous Fifties,” the “Fred Astaire Show” and the “Bing Crosby Special”; some were dramatic and moving, such as Conrad’s “Victory” and “Twilight Zone”; some were marvelously informative, such as “The Nation’s Future,” “CBS Reports,” and “The Valiant Years.” I could list many more—programs that I am sure everyone
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398 FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS LAW JOURNAL [Vol. 55
here felt enriched his own life and that of his family. When television is good, nothing—not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers—nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit-and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you—and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western badmen, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials—many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it.
Is there one person in this room who claims that broadcasting can’t do better?
Well, a glance at next season’s proposed programming can give us little heart. Of seventy-three and a half hours of prime evening time, the networks have tentatively scheduled fifty-nine hours to categories of “action-adventure,” situation comedy, variety, quiz and movies.
Is there one network president in this room who claims he can’t do better?
Well, is there at least one network president who believes that the other networks can’t do better?
Gentlemen, your trust accounting with your beneficiaries is overdue. Never have so few owed so much to so many. Why is so much of television so bad? I have heard many answers:
demands of your advertisers; competition for ever higher ratings; the need always to attract a mass audience; the high cost of television programs; the insatiable appetite for programming material—these are some of them. Unquestionably these are tough problems not susceptible to easy answers.
But I am not convinced that you have tried hard enough to solve them.
I do not accept the idea that the present over-all programming is aimed accurately at the public taste. The ratings tell us only that some people have their television sets turned on, and of that number, so many are tuned to one channel and so many to another. They don’t tell us what the public might watch if they were offered half a dozen additional choices. A rating, at best, is an indication of how many people saw what you gave them. Unfortunately it does not reveal the depth of the penetration, or the
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Number 3] TELEVISION AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST 399
intensity of reaction, and it never reveals what the acceptance would have been if what you gave them had been better—if all the forces of art and creativity and daring and imagination had been unleashed. I believe in the people’s good sense and good taste, and I am not convinced that the people’s taste is as low as some of you assume.
My concern with the rating services is not with their accuracy. Perhaps they are accurate. I really don’t know. What, then, is wrong with the ratings? It’s not been their accuracy—it’s been their use.
Certainly I hope you will agree that ratings should have little influence where children are concerned. The best estimates indicate that during the hours of 5 to 6 P.M., 60 per cent of your audience is composed of children under twelve. And most young children today, believe it or not, spend as much time watching television as they do in the schoolroom. I repeat—let that sink in—most young children today spend as much time watching television as they do in the schoolroom. It used to be said that there were three great influences on a child: home, school and church. Today there is a fourth great influence, and you ladies and gentlemen control it.
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 about the world to them at their level of understanding? Is there no room for reading the great literature of the past, 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.
What about adult programming and ratings? You know, newspaper publishers take popularity ratings too. The answers are pretty clear; it is almost always the comics, followed by the advice-to-the-lovelorn columns. But, ladies and gentlemen, the news is still on the front page of all newspapers, the editorials are not replaced by more comics, the newspapers have not become one long collection of advice to the lovelorn. Yet newspapers do not need a license from the government to be in business— they do not use public property. But in television—where your responsibilities as public trustees are so plain—the moment that the ratings
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400 FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS LAW JOURNAL [Vol. 55
indicate that Westerns are popular, there are new imitations of Westerns on the air faster than the old coaxial cable could take us from Hollywood to New York. Broadcasting cannot continue to live by the numbers. Ratings ought to be the slave of the broadcaster, not his master. And you and I both know that the rating services themselves would agree.
Let me make clear that what I am talking about is balance. I believe that the public interest is made up of many interests. There are many people in this great country, and you must serve all of us. You will get no argument from me if you say that, given a choice between a Western and a symphony, more people will watch the Western. I like Westerns and private eyes too—but a steady diet for the whole country is obviously not in the public interest. We all know that people would more often prefer to be entertained than stimulated or informed. But your obligations are not satisfied if you look only to popularity as a test of what to broadcast. You are not only in show business; you are free to communicate ideas as well as relaxation. You must provide a wider range of choices, more diversity, more alternatives. It is not enough to cater to the nation’s whims—you must also serve the nation’s needs.
And I would add this—that if some of you persist in a relentless search for the highest rating and the lowest common denominator, you may very well lose your audience. Because, to paraphrase a great American who was recently my law partner, the people are wise, wiser than some of the broadcasters—and politicians—think.
As you may have gathered, I would like to see television improved. But
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