In the 1950s, consumers made television the centerpiece of the home, fueling competition among broadcasters. Scrappy upstarts challenged established networks, innovated programming, and catered to under-served audiences. As television grew, Americans worried about its effect on children. A national conversation about television and the common good fostered public broadcasting.
Allen B. Du Mont
Du Mont earned the title “father of television” for pioneering the cathode-ray tubes that made TV possible, manufacturing sets, and starting a fourth network that challenged giants NBC, CBS, and newcomer ABC.
TV and Kids
Networks and program sponsors targeted children as consumers. Kids’ programming ran the gamut from westerns to variety shows, and was designed not only to entertain but to sell products.
The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW), creators of Sesame Street, blended early childhood education seamlessly into the show. CTW hoped to counter commercialism with programming that nurtured children’s minds, giving poor children preparation for pre-school and thus increasing equality of opportunity.
From War Production to Home Consumption
Many products developed for the military during World War II made the transition to American homes: power tools, insecticides, batteries, and candies. First sold to the military, M&Ms became an early adopter of television advertising, sponsoring children’s shows like Howdy Doody.