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Newton Minow, Hugely Influential FCC Chair, Dies at 97

Newton N. Minow, the Federal Communications Commission chairman who in 1961 memorably assailed TV as a “vast wasteland” and went on to have a towering impact on broadcasting by helping shape public television, satellite communications and presidential debates, died May 6 at his home in Chicago. He was 97.

The cause was a heart attack, said his daughter Nell Minow, a top authority on corporate governance.

Mr. Minow was a politically connected Chicago legal grandee and boardroom Zelig whose professional life encompassed nearly every part of the communications business over six decades.

During World War II, he served in an Army battalion that built one of the first telephone lines between China and India. As a director of National Educational Television, a forerunner of the Public Broadcasting Service, he helped obtain the funding to put “Sesame Street” on the air in 1969. He later sat on the boards of CBS, the Tribune Co. and other major broadcasters, and he chaired the PBS board in the late 1970s.

Through prominent roles on panels and commissions, Mr. Minow also worked to create a template for the modern presidential debate format that has conferred on television a defining role, beyond political advertising, in the electoral process.

Ron Simon, a curator at the Paley Center for Media in New York, called Mr. Minow “a crucial figure in expanding TV’s possibilities.”

Read entire article at Washington Post