Regulation of Television

December 23, 1959

Report Outline
Inquries into Network Programming
Existing Controls Over Broadcasting
New Proposals for Regulating Television

Inquries into Network Programming

Public Shock At Disclosures of Deception

Shocked by revelation of abuses in the television industry, America's 150 million TV viewers have been voicing strong opinions about the medium which occupies a large number of their waking hours. Earlier disclosures of deceptive practices were capped, Nov. 2, by Charles Van Doren's admission before a committee of Congress that he had been furnished questions and answers in advance on the quiz show which netted him winnings of $129,000 in 1957.

President Eisenhower declared two days later that “Nobody will be satisfied until the whole mess is cleaned up.” Members of Congress threatened restrictive legislation, and network officials, alarmed by a spreading scandal, promised immediate housecleaning. Numerous proposals for reform, through public or private action, were soon forthcoming. The question was whether such of these hastily devised measures as might be adopted would result in thorough elimination of abuses and in general improvement of television programming.

The probing that followed Van Doren's testimony made it evident that network abuses went much further than rigging of a few independently produced quiz shows. John Crosby, television critic of the New York Herald Tribune syndicate, wrote that “The moral squalor of the quiz mess reaches clear through the whole industry.” Jack Gould, New York Times television critic, asserted that the frauds could not have been carried out without the “constant involvement of representatives of networks, advertising agencies, and sponsors.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 16, 2004  Broadcast Indecency
Mar. 28, 2003  Movie Ratings
Nov. 17, 1995  Sex, Violence and the Media
Feb. 19, 1993  School Censorship
Dec. 20, 1991  The Obscenity Debate
Dec. 07, 1990  Does Cable TV Need More Regulation?
May 16, 1986  Pornography
Jan. 04, 1985  The Modern First Amendment
Oct. 19, 1979  Pornography Business Upsurge
Mar. 09, 1979  Broadcasting's Deregulated Future
Mar. 21, 1973  Pornography Control
May 17, 1972  Violence in the Media
Jan. 21, 1970  First Amendment and Mass Media
Jul. 05, 1967  Prosecution and the Press
Jun. 28, 1961  Peacetime Censorship
Apr. 12, 1961  Censorship of Movies and TV
Dec. 23, 1959  Regulation of Television
Jul. 29, 1959  Control of Obscenity
Jul. 27, 1955  Bad Influences on Youth
Mar. 21, 1952  Policing the Comics
Apr. 12, 1950  Censorship of Motion Pictures
Sep. 20, 1939  Censorship of Press and Radio
Radio and Television
Regulation and Legal Issues