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Arts & Culture

Newton Minow: An American Story

Former FCC chairman Newton Minow.
Courtesy of Picture Show Films
Former FCC chairman Newton Minow.

Airs Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

New 60-minute special tells the story of an American visionary and broadcasting legend

Future broadcaster Mike Leonard grew up with his family in Glencoe, Illinois – a pleasant suburb north of Chicago. Their next door neighbors and good friends were the Minow family – an attorney and his wife and three daughters.

The family patriarch, Newton N. Minow, later became chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the John F. Kennedy administration…and changed the course of broadcasting history forever.

“Newton Minow: An American Story” tells the inspiring story, as told to award-winning journalist and documentarian Mike Leonard, of a man whose principled engagement in public life elevates the common good and advances the American ideals of liberty and justice for all.

A son of immigrants, Newton Minow's journey traverses two centuries as he plays a pivotal role in events from World War II to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Civil Rights struggles; from the advent of television (including his famous 1961 “vast wasteland” speech) and the creation of the public broadcasting service to the cyber-connected current day — all the while collaborating across political, cultural, and ideological lines — with the most recognized and unrecognized people of our time.

FCC chairman Newton Minow and family with President John F. Kennedy.
Courtesy of Picture Show Films
FCC chairman Newton Minow and family with President John F. Kennedy.

Minow, his wife Jo, and daughters Martha, Mary, and Nell — all highly accomplished in their own right — are interviewed by Leonard, with whom they share rare images, fascinating insights, and priceless reminiscences of what it was like to be a part of such a loving and influential family.

FCC chairman Newton Minow and family.
Courtesy of Picture Show Films
FCC chairman Newton Minow and family.

Minow himself brings his considerable skills as a raconteur to the story of a life filled with achievement, hope, and compassion.

Along the way, he shares his unique memories of the space race, the Cold War, satellite communication, the Cuban Missile Crisis (“I thought it was going to be the end of all of us,” he recalls), the Vietnam War and much more.

This is a story of what is possible when aiming high, and of a man who had the strength of his convictions and stood his ground through resistance, criticism, and worse.

The full episode is available for online viewing through Aug. 5, 2018.

Former FCC chairman Newton Minow.
Courtesy of Picture Show Films
Former FCC chairman Newton Minow.

CREDITS:

A production of Picture Show, LLC/Leonard Films. Co-executive producers are John O’Brien, Pat O’Brien, Mike Leonard, and Mary Kay Wall. Director: James Fleischel. Producers: Brian Gailey and Katie Prentiss. Camera: Corey Lillard, Brendan Leonard. Editors: James Fleischel and Brendan Leonard.

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