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美国20世纪最伟大的100篇演讲Newton Minow - Television and the Public Int





N. Minow

and the
Public Interest

9 May

version below

Governor Collins, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Governor Collins you're much
too kind, as all of you have been to
me the last
few days. It's been a great pleasure and an
honor for me to meet
so many of you. And I want to
thank you for this opportunity to meet
with you

know, this is my first public address since I
took over my new job.
the New
Frontiersmen rode into
town, I
locked myself in
my office to do my homework and get my feet
wet. But apparently I haven't
managed yet
to stay out of hot water. I seem to have detected
a very nervous apprehension about what I
might say or do when I emerged from that locked
office for this, my maiden station break.

So first
let me begin
by dispelling a rumor. I was not picked for this job because I
myself as the fastest draw on the New Frontier. Second, let
me start a rumor. Like you, I
carefully read President Kennedy's messages about
the regulatory agencies, conflict of
interest, and the dangers of
ex parte
contacts. And, of course, we at
the Federal
Communications Commission will do our part. Indeed, I may even
suggest that we change the
name of the FCC
to The Seven

may also
come as a surprise to some of you, but I want you
to know that you have my
admiration and my respect. Yours is a most
honorable profession. Anyone who is in the
broadcasting business has a tough row to
You earn your bread by using public property.

Transcription by
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


When you work in broadcasting you volunteer for public service, public pressure, and public
regulation. You
must compete with other attractions and other investments, and the only way
you can do
is to prove to
us every three years that you should have been in business in the
first place.

I can
think of easier ways to make a living.

But I cannot
think of more satisfying ways.

I admire your courage but
that doesn't
I would make life any easier for you.
Your license lets you
use the public's airwaves as trustees for 180 million
Americans. The
public is your beneficiary. If you want
to stay on as trustees, you
must deliver a decent return
to the public not
only to your stockholders. So, as a representative of the public, your
health and your product are among my chief concerns.

Now as to your health, let's talk only of television
today. 1960 gross broadcast revenues of
the television industry were over 1,268,000,000 dollars. Profit before taxes was 243,900,000
dollars, an average return on revenue of 19.2 per cent. Compare these with 1959, when gross
revenues were 1,163,900,000 dollars, and profit before taxes was 222,300,000, an
average return on revenue of 19.1 per cent. So the percentage increase of total
from '59 to '60 was 9 per cent, and the percentage increase of profit was 9.7 per cent. This,
despite a recession
the country. For your investors, the price has indeed been

So I
have confidence in your health, but
not in your product. It
is with
this and much
more in
mind that
I come before you

One editorialist in the trade press wrote that "the FCC of the New Frontier is going to be one
of the toughest FCC's in the history of broadcast regulation." If he meant
that we intend to
enforce the law in the public interest, let
me make it perfectly clear that
he is right: We do. If
he meant
that we intend to muzzle or censor broadcasting,
he is dead wrong.
It wouldn't
surprise me if some of you had expected me to
come here today and say to
in effect,
"Clean up your own
house or the government will
do it for you." Well, in a limited sense, you
would be right because I've just said it.

But I want
to say to you as earnestly as I can
that it
is not in that spirit
come before
today, nor is it in that
spirit that
I intend to
serve the FCC. I am in Washington to help
broadcasting, not to harm it. to
strengthen it, not weaken
it. to
it, not
to punish it. to
encourage it, not threaten
it. and to stimulate it, not
censor it. Above all, I am here to
and protect
the public interest.

Now what do we mean
by "the public interest?" Some say the public interest
is merely what
interests the public. I disagree. And so
does your distinguished president, Governor Collins.

Transcription by
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


In a recent
he said,

Broadcasting to serve the public interest, must
have a soul and a conscience, a burning
desire to excel, as well as to sell. the urge to build the character, citizenship, and
intellectual stature of people, as well as to
expand the gross national product. ...By no
means do I imply that broadcasters disregard the public interest. ...But a much better
job can be done, and should be done.

I could not agree more with Governor Collins. And I would add that in today's world, with
chaos in Laos and the Congo aflame, with Communist tyranny on our Caribbean doorstep,
relentless pressures on our Atlantic alliance, with social and economic problems at home of
the gravest nature, yes, and with
the technological
knowledge that
makes it
possible, as our
has said,
not only to destroy our world but
to destroy poverty around the world in
a time of peril and opportunity, the old complacent, unbalanced fare of actionadventure
situation comedies is simply not good enough.

Your industry possesses the most powerful voice in America.
It has an
inescapable duty to
make that voice ring with intelligence and with
In a few years, this exciting
industry has grown from a novelty to an instrument of overwhelming impact on
the American
people. It
should be making ready for the kind of leadership that
newspapers and magazines
assumed years ago, to
make our people aware of their world.

Ours has been
called the jet age,
the atomic age, the space age. It
is also, I submit, the
television age.
And just as history will decide whether the leaders of today's world employed
the atom to destroy the world or rebuild it for mankind's benefit, so will history decide
whether today's broadcasters employed their powerful
voice to
the people or to debase

If I seem today to address myself chiefly to
the problems of television, I don't want any of you
radio broadcasters to think that we've gone to
sleep at your switch. We haven't. We still
listen. But
in recent years most of the controversies and crosscurrents
in broadcast
programming have swirled around television. And so my subject
today is the television
industry and the public interest.

Like everybody, I wear more than one hat. I am the chairman of the FCC. But I am also a
television viewer and the husband and father of other television viewers. I
have seen a great
many television programs that
seemed to me eminently worthwhile and I am not talking
the much
bemoaned good old days of "Playhouse 90" and "Studio One."

I'm talking about this past season. Some were
wonderfully entertaining, such as "The
Fabulous Fifties," "The Fred Astaire Show," and
"The Bing Crosby Special". some were
dramatic and moving, such as Conrad's "Victory" and "Twilight Zone". some were marvelously
informative, such as "The Nation's Future," "CBS Reports," "The Valiant Years." I could list
many more programs that
I am sure everyone here felt enriched his own life and that of his
family. When
is good,
nothing not
the theater, not
the magazines or newspapers
is better.

Transcription by
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


But when television is bad,
nothing is worse. I
invite each of you to
sit down in front of your
television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book,
without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to
distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set
until the station signs off. I can assure you
what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of 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. And endlessly commercials


screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True,
see a few
things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask
to try it.
Is there one person in this room who claims that broadcasting can't do
better? Well a glance
at next season's proposed programming can give us little heart. Of 73 and 1/2 hours of prime
evening time, the networks have tentatively scheduled 59
hours of categories of actionadventure,
situation comedy,
variety, quiz, and movies. Is there one network president
in this
room who claims he can't do better? Well, is there at least one network president who
believes that the other networks can do better? Gentlemen, your trust accounting with your
beneficiaries is long overdue. Never have so
few owed so much
to so

Why is so much of television so bad? I've heard
many answers: demands of your advertisers.
competition for ever higher ratings. the need always to attract a mass audience. the high cost
of television programs. the insatiable appetite for programming material. These are some of
the reasons. Unquestionably, these are tough problems not susceptible to easy answers. But I
am not convinced that
have tried hard enough to solve them.

I do
not accept
the idea that
the present overall
programming is aimed accurately at the
public taste.
The ratings tell us only that some people have their television sets turned on and
of that number, so
many are tuned to one channel and so
many to another. They don't tell
what the public might watch
if they were offered halfadozen
additional choices. A rating, at
best, is an
indication of how many people saw what you gave them. Unfortunately, it does not
reveal the depth of the penetration, or the intensity of reaction, and it
never reveals what
acceptance would have been
if what you gave them had been better if
the forces of art
and creativity and daring and imagination
had been
unleashed. I believe in the people's good
sense and good taste, and I am not convinced that the people's taste is as low as some of you

My concern with
the rating services is not with
their accuracy. Perhaps they are accurate. I
really don't know. What, then, is wrong with the ratings? It's not been their accuracy it's
been their use.

Certainly, I
hope you will agree that ratings should have little influence where children are
The best
estimates indicate that during the hours of 5 to 6 P.M. sixty per cent of
your audience is composed of children
under twelve. And most
young children today, believe
it or not, spend as much time watching television as they do in the schoolroom.

Transcription by
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


I repeat let
that sink in, ladies and gentlemen
young children today spend as much
time watching television as they do
in the schoolroom. It used to be said that there were
three great influences on a child: home, school, and church. Today, there is a fourth great
influence, and you
ladies and gentlemen
in this room control it.

If parents, teachers, and ministers conducted their responsibilities by following the ratings,
children would have a steady diet of ice cream,
school holidays, and no
Sunday school. What
your responsibilities? Is there no room on television
teach, to inform, to
uplift, to
stretch, to enlarge the capacities of our children? Is there no room for programs deepening
their understanding of children
in other lands? Is there no room for a children's news show
explaining something to
them about the world at
their level of understanding? Is there no
room for reading the great
literature of the past, for teaching them the great traditions of
freedom? There are some fine children's shows, but they are drowned out in the massive
doses of cartoons, violence, and more violence. Must these be your trademarks? Search your
consciences and see if you cannot offer more to
your young beneficiaries whose future you
guide so
many hours each and every day.

Now what about adult programming and ratings? You know, newspaper publishers take
popularity ratings too. And the answers are pretty clear: It
is almost always the comics,
followed by advice to the lovelorn columns. But, ladies and gentlemen, the news is still on
front page of all
newspapers. the editorials are not
replaced by more comics. and the
newspapers have not become one long collection of advice to the lovelorn. Yet
newspapers do
not even
need a license from the government
to be in
business. they do
use public
property. But in television, where your responsibilities as public trustees are so plain, the
that the ratings indicate that westerns are popular there are new
imitations of
westerns on the air faster than
the old coaxial cable could take us from Hollywood to New
York. Broadcasting cannot
continue to
live by the numbers. Ratings ought to be the slave of
the broadcaster, not his master. And you and I
that the rating services themselves
would agree.

Let me make clear that what I am talking about
is balance. I believe that the public interest
up of many interests. There are many people in this great country and you
must serve
all of us. You will get
no argument from me if you say that, given a choice between a western
and a symphony, more people will watch the western. I
like westerns too, but a steady diet
for the whole country is obviously not in the public interest. We all know
that people would
more often prefer to be entertained than stimulated or informed. But your obligations are not
satisfied if you look only to popularity as a test
of what to broadcast. You are not only in show
business. you are free to communicate ideas as well as relaxation.

And as Governor Collins said to you yesterday when he encouraged you
to editorialize as
you know
the FCC
has now encouraged editorializing for years. We want
to do
this. we
you to editorialize, take positions. We only ask that you do it in a fair and a responsible
manner. Those stations that
have editorialized have demonstrated to you that
the FCC will
always encourage a fair and responsible clash of opinion.

Transcription by
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


must provide a wider range of choices, more diversity, more alternatives. It is not enough
to cater to
the nation's whims. you must also serve the nation's needs. And I would add
if some of you persist
in a relentless search for the highest rating and the lowest common
denominator, you may very well
lose your audience. Because, to paraphrase a great American
who was recently my law partner, the people are wise, wiser than
some of the broadcasters
and politicians think.

may have gathered, I would like to see television
how is this to be
brought about? By voluntary action
by the broadcasters themselves? By direct government
intervention? Or how?

Let me address myself now to
my role not as a
viewer but as chairman of the FCC. I
could not
if I would, chart
for you
this afternoon in detail
all of the actions I contemplate.
Instead, I
make clear some of the fundamental principles which guide me.

First: the people own the air. And they own it as much in prime evening time as they do at six
o'clock Sunday morning. For every hour that the people give you you
owe them something.
And I
intend to see that
your debt is paid with service.

Second: I think it would be foolish and wasteful
for us to continue any wornout
wrangle over
the problems of payola, rigged quiz shows, and other mistakes of the past. There are laws on
the books which we will enforce. But there is no
chip on my shoulder.
We live together in
perilous, uncertain times. we face together staggering problems. and we must not waste
time now by rehashing the clichés of past
controversy. To quarrel over the past
is to
lose the future.

Third: I believe in
the free enterprise system. I
to see broadcasting improved, and I
you to do
the job. I am proud to champion your cause. It is not rare for American
businessmen to
serve a public trust. Yours is a special
trust because it is imposed by law.

Fourth: I will do all I
can to
help education
television. There are still not enough educational
stations, and major centers of the country still
lack usable educational channels. If there were
a limited number of printing presses in this country, you
may be sure that a fair proportion of
them would be put to educational use. Educational television has an enormous contribution to
make to
the future, and I
intend to give it a hand along the way. If there is not a nationwide
educational television system in this country, it
not be the fault of the FCC.

Fifth: I am unalterably opposed to governmental censorship. There will be no suppression of
programming which does not
meet with bureaucratic tastes. Censorship strikes at the tap
of our free society.

Sixth: I did not
come to
to idly observe the squandering of the public's airwaves.
The squandering of our airwaves is no
less important
than the lavish waste of any precious
natural resource. I intend to
take the job of chairman of the FCC very seriously. I
believe in
the gravity of my own particular sector of the New Frontier. There will be times
perhaps when
you will
consider that I take myself or my job too

Transcription by
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


Frankly, I don't care if you do. For I am convinced that either one takes this job seriously or
one can be seriously taken.

Now how will
these principles be applied? Clearly at the heart of the FCC's authority lies its
power to
license, to renew or fail
to renew, or to revoke a license. As you
know, when your
license comes up for renewal, your performance is compared with your promises. I
understand that many people feel
that in
the past
licenses were often
renewed pro
say to you now: renewal will
not be pro forma
in the future. There is nothing permanent or
sacred about a broadcast license.

But simply matching promises and performance is not enough. I
intend to do
more. I intend to
find out whether the people care. I
intend to
find out whether the community which each
broadcaster serves believes he has been
serving the public interest. When a renewal
is set
down for a hearing,
I intend, whenever possible, to
hold a welladvertised
public hearing, right
in the community you
have promised to serve. I want the people who own the air and the
homes that television enters to tell
you and the FCC what's been going on. I want
the people

they're truly interested in
the service you give them to
make notes, document cases,
us the facts. And for those few of you who really believe that the public interest
is merely
what interests the public, I
hope that
these hearings will arouse no
little interest.
The FCC has a fine reserve of monitors almost
180 million
Americans gathered around 56
sets. If you want those monitors to be your friends at court, it's up to you.

Now some of you
may say, "Yes, but I still do not know where the line is between a grant of a
renewal and the hearing you just spoke of." My
answer is: Why should you want to
close you
can come to
the edge of the cliff? What
the Commission asks of you
is to
make a
conscientious, goodfaith
effort to serve the public interest. Everyone of you
serves a
community in which
the people would benefit by educational, and religious, instructive and
other public service programming.
Every one of
you serves an area which
has local needs as
local elections, controversial issues, local news, local
talent. Make a serious, genuine
effort to put on that programming. And when you do, you will
not be playing brinkmanship
the public interest.

Now what
I've been saying applies to the broadcast
stations. Now a station break for the
networks and
will last even
longer than
40 seconds: You
networks know your importance in
this great industry. Today, more than one half of all
hours of television
station programming
comes from the networks. in prime time, this rises to
more than three fourths of the available

You know
the FCC
has been studying network operations for some time. I intend to press
this to a speedy conclusion with useful results. I can tell you right
now, however, that
I am
deeply concerned with
concentration of power in the hands of the networks. As a result, too
many local
stations have foregone any efforts at local programming, with little use of live
talent and local
service. Too many local stations operate with one hand on the network switch
and the other on a projector loaded with old movies. We want
the individual stations to be
free to meet their legal responsibilities to
serve their communities.

Transcription by
E. Eidenmuller. Property
of AmericanRhetoric.com. . Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


I join Governor Collins in
his views so well
expressed to the advertisers who
use the public air.
And I
urge the networks to join
him and undertake a very special mission on behalf of this
industry. You can tell your advertisers, "This is the high quality we are going to serve take
it or other people will. If you think you can find a better place to move automobiles,
cigarettes, and soap, then go ahead and try."
your sponsors to be less concerned with
costs per thousand and more concerned with understanding per millions. And remind your
stockholders that an
in broadcasting is buying a share in public responsibility. The
networks can start this industry on the road to freedom from the dictatorship of numbers.

there is more to
the problem than network influences on stations or advertiser influences
on networks. I know the problems networks
face in
trying to clear some of their best
programs the
informational programs that exemplify public service. They are your finest
hours, whether sustaining or commercial, whether regularly scheduled or special. These are
the signs that broadcasting knows the way to
leadership. They make the public's trust
in you
a wise choice.

They should be seen. As
know, we are readying for use new forms by which broadcast
stations will report
their programming to
the Commission. You probably also know that special
attention will be paid in
these forms to reports of public service programming.
I believe that
stations taking network service should also be required
to report
the extent of the local
clearance of network public service programs, and when they fail to
clear them, they should

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