Newton N. Minow

United States attorney and former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission

Newton Norman Minow (January 17, 1926May 6, 2023) was an FCC Chairman from 1961 to 1963 (appointed by John F. Kennedy), lawyer, author, activist on behalf of quality television, organizer of Presidential debates.

Newton N. Minow in 2006



Speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, May 9, 1961 (the Wasteland Speech)

  • 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.
  • What do we mean by "the public interest?" Some say the public interest is merely what interests the public. I disagree.
  • We need imagination in programming, not sterility; creativity, not imitation; experimentation, not conformity; excellence, not mediocrity. Television is filled with creative, imaginative people. You must strive to set them free.
  • Never have so few owed so much to so many.
  • To quarrel over the past is to lose the future.

Quote from a speech to the Association of American Law Schools


"After 35 years, I have finished a comprehensive study of European comparative law. In Germany, under the law, everything is prohibited, except that which is permitted. In France, under the law, everything is permitted, except that which is prohibited. In the Soviet Union, under the law, everything is prohibited, including that which is permitted. And in Italy, under the law, everything is permitted, especially that which is prohibited."

  • Donald Ball and Wendell H. McCulloch, Jr., International Business: Introduction and Essentials, 5th ed. (Homewood, IL: Richard Irwin, 1993), p. 368.
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