Television Delivers People
(Richard Serra & Carlotta Fay Schoolman; 1973)
There's nothing in Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman's Television Delivers People that we don't already know, but in 1973 it was a bit more novel. Which is deliberately subjecting the matter to understatment. Prior to this deceptively simple (by any standard) video work, the closest anyone had come to offering a highly charged critique of the televisual medium was in 1961, when then-FCC Chairman Newton Minnow derided commercial Television as "a vast wasteland", largely because people did not watch programs that he thought were good for them. What was always beneath Minnow's pronouncement was the implication that he . . . not the networks and certainly not the viewers . . . had a better instinct for elevating the tone of popular culture than those who were in a position to actually do it. Never mind that the kind of programming he thought warranted broadcast was (and is) middlebrow pap of a similarly dismal (albeit more liberal) cast than the worst of that which he condemned. The important thing is that he never seemed to question his judgement about what really constituted his vast wasteland. It wasn't that the system was fundamentally pernicious, as he saw it; it was just headed in the wrong direction.
Television Delivers People strikes at the matter more directly, by questioning the wisdom of having a medium this powerful rest entirely in the control of vast corporations; those whose only responsibility is to deliver greater and greater revenues to stock-holders. This is, of course, a line of attack no FCC Chairman could ever (or would ever) adopt. And, a full two decades before Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman's Manufacturing Consent or such ancillary works as Elizabeth Fones-Wolf's amazing history of corporate propaganda, Selling Free Enterprise, Serra and Schoolman brought forth the seed of what would later blossom into a veritable cult of media criticism and set it to the soothing sound of Muzak.