CPB Media Room

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board Honors Newton N. Minow with Lifetime Achievement Award

  • For Immediate Release on December 4, 2012

Minow honored for facilitating growth of the American public television system

Washington, D.C. – The board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) yesterday awarded Newton N. Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and one of the founding fathers of public broadcasting, with its Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding individual contributions to public media.

Mr. Minow was honored for transforming the landscape of American television in the 1960s by putting the concepts of public interest and public service at the forefront of this emerging medium and by encouraging the spread of educational television, known today as public television, across the country.

“Newt Minow felt strongly that television should do more than entertain; it should inspire and enrich lives,” said Patricia Cahill, chair of the CPB board of directors. “His vision led to the creation of public media – in service to all citizens and committed to creating a strong, informed civil society. More than 50 years later, Mr. Minow continues to champion the value of public service media to the nation. We are very pleased to honor him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.”

“Public broadcasting is an American treasure, from Sesame Street to Downton Abbey, to PBS NewsHour, to Masterpiece, to All Things Considered,” said Mr. Minow. “It is a privilege to be part of this splendid service to our country.”

Mr. Minow received his award last evening in Washington, D.C. He is the seventh person to receive this award.

Mr. Minow served as a U.S. Army Sergeant in the China, Burma, India Theater in World War II. His public career began in the administration of Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson during the 1950s. At a very young age, Mr. Minow became a leading figure both on the governor's staff and in his presidential campaigns of 1952 and 1956. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Mr. Minow, then 34, as chair of the FCC, a position he held for two years.

During that time, Mr. Minow became the first chair of the FCC to specifically challenge the content of television programming and to urge significant reform, famously characterizing the medium as a “vast wasteland.” He also fostered several significant initiatives that altered the landscape of American television, including the All-Channel Receiver Act (ACRA) of 1961, which mandated UHF reception capability for all television receivers sold in the U.S. This legislation spurred an increase in the number of television stations and helped launch non-profit, educational televisions stations throughout the country, which eventually became the modern-day public media system. He also led the development of communication satellites.

After leaving the FCC, Mr. Minow served as executive vice president, general counsel and director of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. In 1965, he became a managing partner of the Chicago-based international law firm Sidley Austin LLP, where he is currently senior counsel.

Mr. Minow served on the Board of Governors of PBS from 1973–1980, and served as its chairman from 1978 to 1980. He is the Walter Annenberg professor emeritus at Northwestern University and a past chairman of the Carnegie Corporation and the RAND Corporation. The author of four books and numerous professional journal and magazine articles, Mr. Minow has received 14 honorary degrees, including Brandeis University, the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Mr. Minow is the recipient of multiple awards: American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, Chicago Bar Association John Paul Stevens Award, Federal Communications Bar Association Lifetime Achievement Award, and the American Lawyer Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the CPB board of directors and is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to public media over his or her lifetime. Past recipients have included CPB board members, heads of public media stations and public media journalists.

About CPB

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,400 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

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