Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Nicholas Johnson

American Dissenting Federal Communications Commission Commissioner and Author of "How to Talk Back to Your Television Set", Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"

"It used to be that people needed products to survive. Now products need people to survive."

"A viewer who skips the advertising is the moral equivalent of a shoplifter."

"Taxing poor families runs counter to decades of effort to help people lift themselves out of poverty through work."

"Alabama now has become the only state with an income tax threshold below one-half of the poverty line. Every other state that taxed the incomes of the poor in the early 1990s has reduced or eliminated this tax burden. Alabama stands alone in its failure to act."

"Campaign contributions are like a cancer, eating away at the vital organs of the body politic."

"Colorado's economy had been growing faster than most other states long before it adopted TABOR. The claim that TABOR explains Colorado's prosperity in the 1990s -- and that other states can boost their economies by adopting TABOR -- isn't based on fact."

"Eliminating state income taxes on working families with poverty-level incomes gives a boost in take-home pay that helps offset higher child care and transportation costs that families incur as they strive to become economically self-sufficient. In other words, relieving state income taxes on poor families can make a meaningful contribution toward making work pay."

"Hopeless? No. But there are limits to the possible reform of the system of information and mind control we call mass media. It drives our multi-trillion-dollar consumer economy to the enormous profit of a few, and to the loss of the many. It enables the government to mobilize popular support for its wars for oil. Moreover, just as George Orwell's Winston Smith finally came to realize that, "He loved Big Brother," [FN37] we have become a nation of video addicts largely beyond the power or inclination to resist."

"Cultures are shaped by their stories, their myths; self-governing societies by their ideas and information. Rather than rely on folk music, stories, and a true marketplace of the people's ideas, we have turned this public responsibility over to commerce. And commerce naturally selects those myths, ideas, and information that will provide the best media environment for commercials--and their ability to maximize hedonism, conspicuous consumption, stock prices, and the profits of an advertising-dependent media. By offering the ideas of the marketplace rather than a marketplace of ideas, we are, in effect, rotting our seed corn."

"If a state's currently in the toilet, this is going to keep it there."

"In too many states, the poor and near-poor who are working to join the middle class are instead being taxed right back into poverty. For a family in poverty, a few hundred dollars is a lot of money."

"Is television to blame for everything that is wrong in America? Of course not. Does it have the power to cure all our ills? No. Nor is this to say that programmers should provide the public nothing but an unrelieved diet of educational, public-affairs, and cultural programming. They would not stay in business long if they did. It is to say that if neither ratings nor profits need suffer from product placement, there is no reason they need suffer from information and education placement."

"No one can deny that both print and broadcast journalism can point with pride to much of quality. There are insightful portrayals of conditions both foreign and domestic, hard hitting investigative pieces, even an occasional item exposing major advertisers. But neither can we deny that such journalism is all too rare."

"Of the 13,000 objects, over 40 percent came from breakups of both spacecraft and rocket bodies."

"Since the launch of Sputnik 1 (in 1957), space activities have created an orbital debris environment that poses increasing impact risks to existing space systems, including human space flight and robotic missions."

"Taxing the incomes of the working-poor families runs counter to the efforts of policymakers across the political spectrum to help families work their way out of poverty."

"The current debris population in low Earth orbit has reached the point where collisions will become the dominant debris-generating mechanism in the future."

"So on one hand we have devastating consequences from our massive ignorance and misinformation, and on the other hand we have an industry of television program producers and distributors. They have access to the minds of most American citizens for an average of some three to four hours a day. That is 80,000 to 100,000 hours over a lifetime--at least fifty times the 1800 hours students spend in college classrooms earning a bachelor's degree."

"The past near half-century has brought forth an amazing array of changes in broadcasting. Some of them, by any measure, have been positive. And yet Newton Minow had it right; and yesteryear's "vast wasteland" remains -- certainly when compared to the flower garden television has the power, and refuses, to plant, irrigate and cultivate. Our "thousand points of light" have become nothing more than the glow from television sets."

"There is no single, innovative proposal or activity that can cure all of the media's ills. Neither is the cause hopeless. Thousands of individuals making modest progress can add up to a difference. Education in general, and media education in particular, from kindergarten through college, may be one of the best long-term solutions."