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Revisiting The TV Wasteland

Symposium celebrates Newton Minow and prophetic TV as ‘wasteland’ speech

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April 14, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In a historic speech 50 years ago by Newton Minow, as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, referred to television as a “vast wasteland.” On April 29, Minow will join PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff, New York Times TV critic Virginia Heffernan and others to consider his often-quoted words and the future of TV at a Northwestern University symposium.

The free and public event will take place at 4 p.m. at the Allen Center, 2169 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus and is sponsored by the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

Chicago Public Media president and chief executive officer Torey Malatia – with Heffernan and Woodruff -- will discuss “A Vaster Wasteland,” an article by Minow published this month in The Atlantic magazine. Craig LaMay, Medill associate professor and co-author with Minow of “Abandoned in the Wasteland: Children, Television and the First Amendment,” will moderate.

According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, Minow, though chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for only two years, stimulated more public debate over TV programming than any other chair in the FCC’s long history.

A full transcript and a recording of Minow’s speech are available at http://bit.ly/f8QD1l

Minow -- a University life trustee and Northwestern’s Walter Annenberg Professor Emeritus -- made his celebrated speech on TV’s unfulfilled promise to the National Association of Broadcasters in 1961. A partner from 1965 to 1991 at Sidley Austin LLP, he now is senior counsel in that law firm’s Chicago office. 

For further information on the April 29 symposium, call (847) 467-1800.