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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. 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

In December 1956 Columbia University Professor Charles Van Doren beat longtime winner Herbert Stempel on the quiz show Twenty-One. Stempel later complained to the New York district attorney that the show was rigged. Following a grand jury investigation, the House Special Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight further investigated television quiz shows. The committee heard testimony from network officials, producers, and contestants, including Van Doren. After initial denials, Van Doren attested that Twenty-One was fixed. On the committee’s recommendation, Congress passed legislation in 1960 making quiz-show rigging a federal crime.

This subcommittee has only one purpose and that is the public interest—and whether or not there is a great area here in connection with this great industry that requires legislation, you certainly have helped clarify the record for the subcommittee’s benefit and consideration.

Chairman Oren Harris, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, November 2, 1959