The Wasteland Speech was a speech given by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Newton N. Minow to the convention of the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961. The speech was Minow's first major speech after he was appointed chairman of the FCC by President John F Kennedy. In the speech, Minow referred to American commercial television programming as a "vast wasteland" and advocated for programming in the public interest.
- "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."
This speech is properly titled "Television and the Public Interest". It was a landmark speech for the medium of television, at a time when there were only three networks in the United States and when the realm of television was much less vast than it is today. Nonetheless, it is counted as one of a hundred best American speeches of the 20th century by several authorities and selected as one of twenty-five 'Speeches that Changed the World' by Vital Speeches. Related writings include his book (co-written with Craig LaMay) Abandoned in the Wasteland: Children, Television, & the First Amendment.
The phrase "vast wasteland" was suggested to Minow by his friend, reporter and freelance writer John Bartlow Martin. Martin had recently watched twenty consecutive hours of television as research for a magazine piece, and concluded it was "a vast wasteland of junk." During the editing process, Minow cut the words "of junk." 
Minow often remarks that the two words best remembered from the speech are "vast wasteland," but the two words he wishes would be remembered are "public interest."
- Newton N. Minow, "Television and the Public Interest", address to the National Association of Broadcasters, Washington, D.C., May 9, 1961.
- The Best of Vital Speeches of the Day: 25 Speeches That Changed Our World. McMurry. 4 Jan. 2007.
- Fallows, James (11 May 2011). "Where the Phrase 'Vast Wasteland' Came From". The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- Johnson, Ted (9 May 2011). ""A Vast Wasteland," 50 Years Later". Variety magazine. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Newton N. Minow|
- Complete text and audio of Minow's speech from AmericanRhetoric.com
- Maclean's article, June 17, 1996
- "Update" April 24, 2001
- "Museum of Broadcast Communications article on Minow and the speech"
- "Assessment of the speech by Minow and 24 commentators for the Federal Communications Law Journal" May 2003
- "Interview with Minow about the state of television in 2006
- MP3 recording of the entire Minow speech, "Television and the Public Interest"