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The 1950's
TV Quiz Show Scandals



TV Quiz Show Scandals
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.93

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    mailing, testimony, investigation, fraud, deception, corrupt, finding, decade, scandal, happening, entertainment, highly, hosted, entire, loser, sponsor
     content words:    Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Ed Sullivan, Supreme Court, On June, Herb Stempel, Charles Van Doren, United States Congress, Van Doren


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TV Quiz Show Scandals
By Jane Runyon
  

1     Television became a very popular form of entertainment in the 1950's. When the decade began, less than one household out of ten owned a television set. By the end of the 1950's, almost nine of every ten households owned at least one television set.
 
2     Television networks worked hard to provide the kinds of shows that people wanted to see. Westerns starring Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers were very popular. Variety shows brought people like Ed Sullivan into homes across the country. By the middle of the decade, quiz shows were making the scene. It took an act of the Supreme Court to get them on the air, though. It was first believed that giving money as prizes for games on TV was a form of gambling. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that these types of games were not a form of gambling. That opened the door. Networks scrambled to put quiz shows on the air.
 
3     Radio shows in the late 1940's and early 1950's had promised prize money to people with knowledge on a variety of subjects. One of the most popular of these radio quiz shows was The $64 Question. When its TV spin-off hit the air, the prize had been multiplied by 1000. On June 7, 1955, The $64,000 Question debuted. In today's economy, that $64,000 would be worth about $440,000.
 
4     When quiz shows were introduced, it became the practice for one company to sponsor the entire show. Some examples were Sylvania's Beat the Clock and Geritol's Twenty-One. The more people watched these shows, the more people saw commercials for the sponsor's products. The more people saw the products, the more likely they were to buy the product when they went to the store. The sponsors were deeply interested in the success of the shows. That's where the problems began.

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