The article A Vaster Wasteland gives a brief look at the past 50 years of television, told from the perspective of then-chairman of the Federal Communications Comission.
Newton N. Minow began his new job 50 years ago, where he set off on a mission to improve broadcast or, as he called it, the “vast wasteland.” He then goes on to mention how an unhappy Hollywood producer named the sinking ship in Gilligan’s Island after him. I looked at the author’s name and laughed for a good minute and twelve seconds.
Anyway, back to business. Minow discusses the great things that have been accomplished over the years: PBS and the wonders of Sesame Street, the ever-popular televised presidential debates, and launching the first communications satellite. But, he also takes a moment to recognize the faults, such as bombarding children with commercials disguised as shows, sexual content, and violence.
With times changing rapidly, Minow offers future broadcasters and the world six goals that should be accomplished in the next 50 years.
I really enjoyed this article, and reading thoughts on the past and future of television broadcast from someone who knows so much about it. I enjoy how a speech he made over 50 years ago in an attempt to impact change is still readily cited. It’s who he is, and it has come to define him. He noted that the “vast wasteland” was a metaphor for a “particular time in our nation’s communications history, and to my surprise it became part of the American lexicon.”
Broadcast and television in general has certainly experienced its ups and downs over the past 50 years, and the struggles and debates will undoubtedly continue over the next 50 years. But, one thing’s for sure, if we follow the six-goal plan of Minow and the advice of other experts, the sinking ship that is television will be swimming again in no time. It’s time to get off the island.