Vaster Wasteland

TV is a big joke. Watch too much of it and your brain will turn to oatmeal. But with all of its many faults, TV is a full Cambridge scholarship compared to AM radio, and its shock jocks, right-wing talkers, sports show meatheads, and other on-air “personalities.”

In 1961, before the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minow delivered what is now famously known as his “Wasteland Speech.” Stating that, “When television is bad, nothing is worse,” Minow called TV a “vast wasteland.” Minow objected to the programming of that vintage era, as he described it, “game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons.” Minow was right on the money. They didn’t (and still don’t) call TV the “boob tube” for nothing.

At the time, only three TV networks broadcast in the USA. Today, more than 20 national TV networks operate, with hundreds of lesser networks also broadcasting around the clock. With today’s spate of unreal reality shows, dog-eat-dog survivor shows, idiotic game shows, sappy soap operas, and additional broadcasting babblement, things have not improved any. Indeed, the vast wasteland is now vaster than ever.

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