Television and Politics
Television swept the nation during the 1950s, with the number of sets increasing from one million in 1949 to fifty million ten years later. This phenomenal growth marked a new era in communications, one that many believed would change politics dramatically. In 1951, a White House communication related President Harry Truman’s concern that congressional hearings should cease to be televised “because of the tendency to make Roman holidays of them.” Although Senator John F. Kennedy warned in 1959 that television could be “abused by demagogues, by appeals to emotion and prejudice and ignorance,” he believed that television’s “net effect can definitely be for the better.” He contended that the new medium gave the public a new opportunity to detect for themselves deception and honesty in a politician’s image.
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