Don’t Touch that Dial

May 9 is the 50th anniversary of Kennedy-appointed FCC Chairman Newton Minnow’s notorious challenge to television invoking an urge for its makers to turn to the public interest.

“I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own 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 that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

Nowadays it feels like everyone is trying their hand at any of the variety of methods for “curating” their own personal media library to do an end run around a vaster wasteland than Minnow could have ever imagined.

In the library we are imagining how we can build an online experience that accommodates the audience wanting to have something more like i-Tunes when they do their research, and articulates the many relationships among the formats we have available, for example linking an exhibition catalog to a checklist to an interview with the artist about the show, to its reviews, to the versions of all that happen when the exhibition travels. As a really 360 degree institution, we would include recordings of the artist making appearances here and curriculum for their stints as visiting artists.

All of it will provide what my esteemed colleague from Stanford Peter Blank calls “the cloud of context.”

Stay tuned! There will be more forms of photographic information and inspiration in our catalog – MP3s, hyperlinks to pdfs, e-books, digital databases, all for you to gather into a wasteland-free experience.

Meanwhile, relax into your best blog-reading couch potato position and enjoy a few selections from the “old school” library’s books having to do with TV.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CBS News. 10:56:20 PM EDT, 7/20/69; The Historic Conquest of the Moon by CBS Over the CBS Television Network. [New York: Columbia Broadcasting System, 1970]. TR713.C37 1970

Heinecken, Robert. 1984: A Case Study in Finding an Appropriate Newswoman in Words and Pictures. Los Angeles: R. Heinecken, [1986] c1985. TR654.H45 1985

New Museum of Contemporary Art. From Receiver to Remote Control: The TV Set. New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, c1990. TR183.F75 1990

Friedlander, Lee. The Little Screens. San Francisco: Fraenkl Gallery, [2001]. TR647.F75 2001

Fang, Irving E. Television News. New York: Hastings House Publishers [1972].

I included a representative sample from the “wasteland” years, but, if you are more romantic, refer back to my post on the exceedingly lovely tome Magic Dials.

WNYC’s On the Media had Sarah Fishko record a great observation of the 50th anniversary – check it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s