The Expanding Vista

American Television in the Kennedy Years

The Expanding Vista

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 38 b&w photographs, 4 line dra Published: January 1994

Author: Mary Ann Watson

History > U.S. History, Media Studies > TV

As American politics and television became more closely intertwined in the early 1960s, each underwent enormous and long-lasting changes. In The Expanding Vista, originally published in 1990 (Oxford University Press), Mary Ann Watson looks at how television was woven into the events and policies of John Kennedy’s presidency, not only in his unprecedented use of the medium in campaigning and image projection, but in the vigorous efforts of his administration to regulate and improve the content of network programs. Examining the legacy of the New Frontier and its relationship to the new medium, she traces the Kennedy influence across a spectrum of programming that includes news, documentary, drama, situation comedy, advertising, children’s shows, and educational TV. Through extensive archival research and oral histories Watson reconstructs key moments of an extraordinary time in the television age. The Expanding Vista’s analysis and interpretation of that era continue to enlighten our understanding of culture and communication as the themes sounded in the 1960s resonate in today’s complex media marketplace.


"An exceptional piece of scholarship that adds significantly to the literature of the field . . . gracefully presented in a highly readable form. This book is a model for other broadcast historians who have yet to treat many important developments in the history of a medium that has greatly defined the modern era." — Everette E. Dennis, Executive Director, The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, Columbia University

"Mary Ann Watson has woven thousands of up-to-now loose strands together in this energetically researched, almost encyclopedic account of how JFK seized on television. It is also the story of how the social, political, and technological dynamics of Kennedy’s era interacted with TV to transform a large part of American life." — Ray Scherer, NBC White House Correspondent, 1951–69

"Mary Ann Watson zeroes in with pinpoint prose on a fruitful period in American television and makes us see its importance." — Erik Barnouw, author of Tube of Plenty

"Readable and informed . . . an important contribution to the story of the way the new medium has transformed our lives." — Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"This insightful book . . . is filled with unknown detail, anecdotes, and documentation. The author knows television and history, and that is an unbeatable combination." — Newton N. Minow, FCC Chairman, 1961–63


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Mary Ann Watson is Associate Professor of Telecommunications and Film, Eastern Michigan University. The Expanding Vista received the Frank Luther Mott Kappa Tau Alpha Award from the National Journalism Scholarship Society as one of the best books of 1990.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1443-1
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