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FCC Chair Who Called TV “A Vast Wasteland” Was 97 – Deadline

Newton N. Minow, who shocked the nation in 1961 by calling American television “a vast wasteland,” died on Saturday at his home in Chicago . He was 97 and died from a heart attack, according to his daughter.

Minow made his memorable remarks at a luncheon in Washington before broadcast executives.

“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,” Minow said. “I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

He added, “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 bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials — many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom.

“If you think I exaggerate, try it.”

His remarks sparked a national debate over TV’s merits. While the F.C.C. couldn’t order any content programming, Minow’s remarks hinted at license renewals problems without service on the publicly-owned airwaves.

Survivors include daughters Nell, Martha, and Mary Minow, and three grandchildren. No memorial plans have been announced.

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