Fred Silverman vs. Newton Minow

Today, Norman is addressing the 50th anniversary (May 9) of FCC Chairman Netwon Minow’s famous “vaste wasteland” speech:

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. 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.

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

Now for the rebuttal by Norman Horowitz:   Continue reading “Fred Silverman vs. Newton Minow”

After All, Someone Needs to Get the Job Done

by Norman Horowitz

I am the product of the industry in which I have worked for 50+ years. In fact, the only insight I can bring to anything is not based on my intellect, but rather on my experiences in life in general, as well as the Air Force and the business of television.

I grew up watching my father run his small dress manufacturing business at 1385 Broadway in New York. To me, he was to me the ultimate operating executive in that he knew everything he needed to know to run his business. Everyone who worked for him had a job to do (including my Dad). He had no “formal” business training, yet he ran a profitable business for many years.

My career in the entertainment industry started as a part-time, minimum-wage shipping clerk and messenger for the editorial department of Screen Gems Television in New York. In the intervening years, I became a functioning operating and sales executive. Although I’ve had many staff positions in the intervening years, I’m still an operating guy.   Continue reading “After All, Someone Needs to Get the Job Done”

Throw Another Christian to the Lions

by Norman Horowitz

Apparently, a mere 2000 years ago, Roman Emperors came up with an early reality show to entertain and distract  “the masses.”

They built the Colosseum, a 50,000-seat amphitheatre where they staged bloody gladiatorial contests and other “entertainments” that pitted men against one another and/or wild animals.

The most popular of the shows’ entertainment segments was throwing Christians to the lions. This concept was a winning idea, as it gave the masses something that they wanted. It has been reported that they didn’t think too hard about the shortcomings of their rulers or of the political system with this distraction, although I find this difficult to believe.

Many say that 2000-odd years later these contests are replicated, in a manner of speaking, by television.  Americans are diverted and entertained each Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by all sorts of entertainment and sports carried on television.   Continue reading “Throw Another Christian to the Lions”

The History of the World, My Sweet– Is Who Gets Eaten, and Who Gets to Eat!

Just to avoid confusion, from now on I’m going to put the name of the author at the top of each post. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m as prolific as Norman! — AWO

by Norman Horowitz

This post’s title is a quote from the brilliant Stephen Sondheim play Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

As a studio motion picture and television salesman, it was my responsibility to extract as much money from those buying such content as possible without cheating and lying in the process. Conversely, those buying the content were trying as hard as they could to pay as little as possible for it.

Here’s a confession, or at least an acknowledgement as to a relevant point in the process: For the majority of the motion pictures or television product, there is little to distinguish the value of the available content. It was mostly in the minds of the buyers, placed there whenever possible by the sellers like me.   Continue reading “The History of the World, My Sweet– Is Who Gets Eaten, and Who Gets to Eat!”