That description comes from the first official speech given by Newton Minow, shortly after President Kennedy appointed him chairman of the F.C.C., in 1961. Minow wasn’t arguing that what aired on television was bad; he was arguing that it was amoral. He quoted, with approval, the words of the industry’s own Television Code and urged the networks to live up to them: "Program materials should enlarge the horizons of the viewer, provide him with wholesome entertainment, afford helpful stimulation, and remind him of the responsibilities which the citizen has toward his society."
From a modern perspective, the passage feels prissy and laughable, the residue of an era when television was considered a public utility: it was in everyone’s best interest to keep it pure, and then add fluoride...
April 8, 2014
Writes Emily Nussbaum in a New Yorker article titled "The Great Divide: Norman Lear, Archie Bunker, and the rise of the bad fan." She explains the context: