Minow Revisits Wasteland

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Apparently, the "vast wasteland" has bridged the vast political divide between FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and iconic former Chairman Newton Minow, who coined that phrase to describe TV programming 45 years ago.

Martin, of course, is a deregulatory Republican, while the Democratic Minow was a Kennedy appointee.

But Martin recently toasted Minow’s "courage in publicly daring the industry to achieve a higher vision"—a stance that Martin has sought to emulate by boosting enforcement of indecency regulations and pushing for new content-control initiatives.

The two were united in more than spirit earlier this month when Martin presented Minow with a lifetime service award from TV-content ratings group Common Sense Media.

Before handing over the award, Martin noted that "it was in reflecting on his ‘Vast Wasteland’ speech several years ago that I first set forth what I thought the industry should do to give parents more tools to control the media."

Furthermore, it turns out that Minow’s daughter Martha was Martin’s first law professor at Harvard.

Professor Minow says Martin was "a good and serious student," adding that she was "delighted with the connection between my former student and my father." So how does his regulation of indecency square with First Amendment law? Says Minow: "I leave assessments of communications policy to them."

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