Current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and former Chairman
Newt Minow conversed on the state of the media Monday at the National
The occasion was the marking of the 50th anniversary
of Minow's famous "Vast Wasteland" speech to the National
Association of Broadcasters sponsored by George
Global Media institute. The event would have had a hard time living up to its
billing, with Newton bill as one of
the Knights of the Kennedy Administration's "Camelot" passing the
symbolic torch to a new generation of media knight, Genachowski.
It didn't exactly feel like that, however. Genachowski
did not bite on offers to label today's landscape, other than to say it needed
to include more mobile broadband and a new model for supporting the grunt work
of journalism. Minow got a lengthy and glowing intro from
Genachowski, who said the former chairman's set a standard for excellence that
continued to "guide and inspire us at the FCC."
Minow said that the two words he wished had been
remembered from that speech were 'public interest," not "vast
wasteland.' Genachowski said the speech was as relevant today as it was 50
years ago. He said the speech was celebrated because it was a speech for all
time, and primarily about the power of technology and communications to connect
and empower people.
He said that, reading between the lines, the speech
envisioned new services like Twitter and Facebook and mobile phones. the
speech was not about one technology, but all technologies, said Genachowski.
Genachowski's tie to Minow is more than their
shared experience as FCC chairman. Minow's daughter Martha, president of Harvard
was both Genachowski's and President Barack Obama's law professor. He
called Minow's three daughters the Charlie's Angels of jurisprudence;
though he said he hoped he was not struck down for using an Aaron Spelling
Minow said he did not think today's TV landscape was a
vast wasteland, primarily because of the increased choice it offered. If
you want news, there are news channels; if you wanted food programming,
there were networks for that too.
Moderator Frank Sesno, formerly of CNN and currently with
GW, pressed him on the news point, saying that some people argued there was
more talk than reporting, more cable noise than news. Minow agreed, saying
it was that love of controversy that had driven the focus on his "vast
Genachowski said that the Minow speech resonated
not just because it was a catchy phrase, but because it articulated what a lot
of people were thinking. His challenge to do better and his optimism and vision
inspired people throughout the nation, said the current chairman.
Genachowski had a present for Minow, a collection of
the letters Minow received after his speech, most supporting his call for
Minow said he remembered one of those letters, which
asked: "What time does the vast wasteland go on?"