FILM 2401STUDY NOTES
Chapter12- Network Domination ofUS Television (1959-1971)
From 1959-1971, The Big Three (NBC, CBS, ABC) experienced the greatest level of
The single sponsor system was replaced by using multiple sponsors. This weakened the
This was the period where networks began to produce or co-produce most of their own
programming and this created a vertical integration. They controlled their distribution
in syndication.Theyownedor co-owned91%ofallthe programsin primetime in 1965.
The Big Three were criticized from a number or different corners for the perceived poor
Newton Minnow launched into a general attack on their overall product. “I can assure
you that you will observe a vast wasteland. You will see a procession of game shows,
violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable
families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men,
He threatened the television owners by saying that he would consider not renewing
their licensesiftheydidnotclean up their act.
Minnow used his power toprevent the sale of a particular commercial station in NY City
to another commercial interest that he wanted set aside for a non-commercial
Minnow also opened up the possibility of further development of non-commercial
broadcasting: funding for new television station construction (more channels available)
and ordering television set manufacturers to carry both VHF and UHF receivers in all
new television sets (thisallowsmorechannelstobe pickedup in asinglecity).
Commercial broadcasters began to produce more documentaries to do more of what
Minnow liked about American television. Prime time documentaries flourished in this
The beginning of the end of the Big Three Networks’ domination started a few years
later. In 1970 the FCC passed the Prime-Time Access Rule (PTAR), which took away one
hour of nighttime programming rom the networks and gave it back to the local
More importantly, the Financial Interest and Syndication Rule (fin/syn) was passed by
the FCC in 1971. This was designed to keep the networks from producing and owning
any of the programs they aired in primetime and to break up the vertically integrated
oligopolisticstructureofthe American television industry.
The combination of an activist FCC and the rise of cable networks in the 1970s and
1980screatedamuchmorecompetitive environmentin television for awhile.
American television programsbecame thedominantsource oftelevision entertainment
Itwasnotuntil1961whentheworldcaught up totheUS in television setownership.
American television producers were aggressively selling their shows to foreign
broadcasters hungry for programming. A business strategy of “selling cheap” ensured
their domination oftheairwavesofmostcountriesaroundthe world.
By1970thethreenetworkshadbecome theworld’slargestTVprogramtraders. The US was blessed with a large internal market for media products. Movies and
television programs could be exported at low cost because they had recouped all or
mostoftheir production costsin thedomesticmarket.
Television was no longer mainly a “live medium” as it had been throughout the 1950’s.
Filming programs allowed a permanent copy to be made that could be duplicated as
By 1963 CBS’s film sale divisions had become the world’s largest exporter of TV
programming and for the first time that year its foreign sales exceeded domestic
One of the consequences of such success was that American politicians began to
become concerned about how these programs represented America abroad (most
Case Study- The ColdWarandEspionage Narratives
Spies were used almost exclusively during wartime. In the US, every major war