FILM 2401 Chapter Notes - Chapter 12: National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People, Vertical Integration, Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement
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FILM 2401 STUDY NOTES
Chapter 12- Network Domination of US Television (1959-1971)
From 1959-1971, The Big Three (NBC, CBS, ABC) experienced the greatest level of
power and influence.
The single sponsor system was replaced by using multiple sponsors. This weakened the
power of advertisers over the networks.
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. They owned or co-owned 91% of all the programs in primetime in 1965.
The “Vast Wasteland”
The Big Three were criticized from a number or different corners for the perceived poor
quality of their programming.
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,
western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons.”
He threatened the television owners by saying that he would consider not renewing
their licenses if they did not clean up their act.
Minnow used his power to prevent the sale of a particular commercial station in NY City
to another commercial interest that he wanted set aside for a non-commercial
educational broadcaster—National Educational Television.
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 (this allows more channels to be picked up in a single city).
Commercial broadcasters began to produce more documentaries to do more of what
Minnow liked about American television. Prime time documentaries flourished in this
environment until the end of the 1960s.
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
oligopolistic structure of the American television industry.
The combination of an activist FCC and the rise of cable networks in the 1970s and
1980s created a much more competitive environment in television for a while.
Exporting American Television
American television programs became the dominant source of television entertainment
around the world.
It was not until 1961 when the world caught up to the US in television set ownership.
American television producers were aggressively selling their shows to foreign
broadcasters hungry for programming. A business strategy of “selling cheap” ensured
their domination of the airwaves of most countries around the world.
By 1970 the three networks had become the world’s largest TV program traders.