The Vast Broadland

Democratic FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and former Democratic FCC Chairman Newton Minnow will compare notes in a discussion on the future of telecommunications at the National Press Club in Washington May 9.

If that date doesn’t set off any alarm bells with broadcasters, it should. That marks exactly 50 years since Minow ripped them a new one at their own annual convention in a speech calling the media landscape a “vast wasteland.” The moniker has lingered despite the industry’s brilliant coverage of the Kennedy assasination and Moon landing and shows like Roots and All in the Family and M*A*S*H* and Mad Men and West Wing and, well, you get the point. Great catchphrase, but…

The conversation, tabbed “From Wasteland to Broadband,” will be moderated by Frank Sesno, former CNN fixture and now director of GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

Genachowski was the recipient of the Newt Minow Public Policy award from Common Sense Media last year, which was handed out at the Kennedy Center (coincidentally, Minow was a Kennedy appointee to the commission).

But the two do not see eye to eye on indecency. Minow was among a trio of former FCC officials who asked the Supreme Court to strip the FCC of its indecency regulation authority, calling it a Victorian Crusade. The Genachowski FCc has defended that power and challenged a lower court’s decision calling that authority into question.

Minow may have famously dubbed TV a “vast wasteland” back in the 1960s, but he was ready to let TV programmers in this century have more say over content if the alternative is the current FCC.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.