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Communications Act Amendments, September 13, 1960

Congress rejected the subcommittee’s recommendations to expand federal regulatory powers over television, but in 1960 passed an amendment to the Communications Act of 1934, which governed the broadcast industry. Reflecting the language of television executive Robert Kintner, the amendment made it a federal offense to rig a “purportedly bona fide” contest of knowledge, skill, or chance.

General Records of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration

Communications Act Amendments, September 13, 1960

Television Quiz Shows

Television quiz shows offering substantial cash prizes became enormously popular in the 1950s. Their future was jeopardized, however, when some former contestants complained to the New York district attorney that the shows were rigged. After a grand jury investigation, the House Special Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight investigated the matter further. Hearing testimony from contestants, producers, sponsors, and network representatives, the committee concluded that some shows had used deceptive—though not illegal—practices to boost ratings. In 1960 Congress passed legislation making quiz-show rigging a federal crime.

It is symptomatic of some far more basic problems in this whole industry with you people in a mad rush to develop something which is salable, which will draw a greater dollar, without any regard to public obligation.

Representative John E. Moss of California, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, 1959–1960