I Media Main I Media by Decade I Media by Genre I Media Timeline I
The 1960s were a time of political, social, cultural and psychological change. Americans were confronted with cult movements, civil rights issues, the Vietnam war, student protests…all covered by national news organizations, and more immediately television. Television's effect on politics, advertising and public perception continued to grow. In 1962, with the communications satellite Telstar I in space, followed by other satellites, news reports from around the world could be transmitted directly to a network broadcast center, giving television unprecendented power to communicate major world events real-time.
In 1963, CBS introduced a middle-aged wire-service reporter who commanded respect and trust from his television audience. On November 22, 1963, Walter Cronkite was the only anchor present to announce the assasination of President John F. Kennedy. Walter Cronkite anchored the half-hour news show, CBS Evening News, that held viewers for nearly twenty years, giving substance and credibility to television news. Each evening the Cronkite would sum up, "And that's the way it is," to give his report the feel of a true and objective account of the day's happenings. In a quest for facts, Cronkite personally went to Vietnam in 1965, and again in 1968 to cover the war. By 1967, all three networks, ABC, NBC and CBS had expanded the evening news from fifteen to thirty minutes. During the Cronkite years, television gained enormous credence as a news medium.
The big events of the decade, the civil rights movement, environmental damage, protests and marches, women's demands for equality, the space race and the landing on the moon, as well as the Vietnam War, all appeared live on the television screen. As the Freedom Fighters marched in the South under the direction of Martin Luther King, Jr., the television cameras brought the story to life. The Vietnam War also became a big television story as the conflict escalated in 1965. The documentaries made in Vietnam carried an impact unrivaled by print media, as the people watched live footage of war for the first time in history. Images of children being burned and scarred by napalm, prisoners being tortured, and other horrific images were telecast from Southeast Asia.
(Left) Screen shot from the 1969 live television broadcast.
On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 landing vehicle known as the Eagle, touched down on the surface of the moon. Worldwide, people held their breath as they heard Neil Armstrong report from the moon: "Tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed." A television camera mounted on the base of the Eagle sent back live images to Earth, of Neil Armstrong climbing down the ladder of the lunar landing vehicle, and stepping onto the surface of the moon. Television had brought the world closer in a remarkable way.
Television news and newspapers became more distinctly separated in the 1960s. While television gave the headlines, newspapers gave more in-depth interpretation and coverage. The "muckraking" journalistic style from the first decade, which focused on exposing corruption in business and government, was revived in the Sixties. Objectivity became important for most of the major newspapers, as they became more self-reflective of their coverage. Investigative reporting in the 1960s offered the public, interpretations of the news stories, but was mostly conducted by the larger newspapers that had bigger budgets.
Television's dominance in media brought about several new publications, such as Telemedium, introduced by the National Telemedia Council (USA) in 1963, which provided a forum for critics of TV and radio programming. Cable Television Business: Business Magazine for the Cable Television Industry appeared in 1963, featuring the industry's future opportunities, particularly in technology. Another magazine, Telecommunications, which was first published in 1967, covered the technical aspects of global communications, dealing with computers and and cutting-edge technology.
In the 1960s, American companies found it cheaper to produce films in Britain and some new productions in Britain like the James Bond films were performing very well. Thus, much money was pumped in to the British film industry. However, when low-budget American films, such as Easy Rider (1969), were successful, attention returned to the USA. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Hong Kong produced more than 120 films annually, mostly martial arts movies, including those starring the famous Kung-fu master Bruce Lee, such as Fists of Fury (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973).
In 1960, the US television industry received $2 billion in advertising, twice that of radio's. American cigarette advertising contributed to a large part of that. Meanwhile, the FCC applying the Fairness Doctrine (refer to 1940s), granted equal time on air to groups opposed to radio and television commercials for tobacco products. Television advertisements were especially good at depicting improved lifestyles from using their products.