Why I Feel Strangely Responsible for FCC Chairman Newton Minnow’s Death

Orrin Konheim
3 min readMay 8

Newton Minnow was a most interesting political figure. He’s mostly known for telling television executives at a 1961 conference to their faces that TV was a “vast wasteland” as the head of the FCC. Today, I might have equated him to those awful MAGA cronies like Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt who wanted to abolish the government departments that they were put in charge of. But I didn’t know much about the full story.

But, there’s a case to be made that he was pretty ballsy.

A headline the next day: “Black Tuesday at the NAB Convention”

Apparently, he didn’t really hate TV. He was a lover of the Twilight Zone (I’m also not sure where he stood on my beloved Looney Tunes considering he spoke against violence). He was mostly commenting on the limited amount of choices at the time (TV only existed in three channels back then).

More importantly, Minnow put his money where his mouth is. In just two years of service at the FCC, he built the public infrastructure for public television nation-wide and even worked directly with Kennedy to launch communications. He advocated for public television his whole life and pay-tv options.

Malia and Sasha Obama can also thank him for their existence. He also was responsible for Barack Obama was hired for his law firm and that’s where he met Michelle.

Personally, I went from this interesting notable historical figure’s existence, to hearing personally from his daughter over Twitter, and then hearing second-hand that he died in the span of 48 hours.

1. Two days ago, my journalist friend Will osted about this bizarre Gilligan’s Island made-for-tv movie where the Harlem Globe Trotters and a team of super robots battle for the fate of the world
2. I immediately dropped everything and watched the movie off a bit torrent, because why wouldn’t I? The movie boasts Keiko O’Brien from Deep Space Nine, Oscar winner Martin Landau, the Harlem Globetrotters, most of the beloved crew from Gilligan’s Island, and an animatronic robot credited only as himself. It’s utterly delightful in that you couldn’t even begin to find the reality in any of it…

Orrin Konheim

Freelance journalist w/professional bylines in 3 dozen publications, writing coach, google me. Patreon: http://www.patreon/com/okjournalist Twitter: okonh0wp