The program employed a magazine format, similar to that of the Canadian program W5, which had premiered two years earlier. It pioneered many of the most important investigative journalism procedures and techniques, including re-editing interviews, hidden cameras, and "gotcha journalism" visits to the home or office of an investigative subject. Similar programs sprang up in Australia and Canada during the 1970s, as well as on local television news.
Initially, 60 Minutes aired as a bi-weekly show hosted by Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace, debuting on September 24, 1968, and alternating weeks with other CBS News productions on Tuesday evenings at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The first edition, described by Reasoner in the opening as a "kind of a magazine for television," featured the following segments:
- A look inside the headquarters suites of presidential candidates Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey during their respective parties' national conventions that summer;
- Commentary by European writers Malcolm Muggeridge, Peter von Zahn, and Luigi Barzini, Jr. on the American electoral system;
- A commentary by political columnist Art Buchwald;
- An interview with then-Attorney General Ramsey Clark about police brutality;
- "A Digression," a brief, scripted piece in which two silhouetted men (one of them Andy Rooney) discuss the presidential campaign;
- An abbreviated version of an Academy Award-winning short film by Saul Bass, Why Man Creates; and
- A meditation by Wallace and Reasoner on the relation between perception and reality. Wallace said that the show aimed to "reflect reality".
The first "magazine-cover" chroma key was a photo of two helmeted policemen (for the Clark interview segment). Wallace and Reasoner sat in chairs on opposite sides of the set, which had a cream-colored backdrop; the more famous black backdrop (which is still used as of 2015) did not appear until the following year. The logo was in Helvetica type with the word "Minutes" spelled in all lower-case letters; the logo most associated with the show (rendered in Eurostile type with "Minutes" spelled in uppercase) did not appear until about 1974. Further, to extend the magazine motif, the producers added a "Vol. xx, No. xx" to the title display on the chroma key; modeled after the volume and issue number identifications featured in print magazines, this was used until about 1971. The trademark stopwatch, however, did not appear on the inaugural broadcast; it would not debut until several episodes later. Alpo dog food was the sole sponsor of the first program.
Don Hewitt, who had been a producer of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, sought out Wallace as a stylistic contrast to Reasoner. According to one historian of the show, the idea of the format was to make the hosts the reporters, to always feature stories that were of national importance but focused upon individuals involved with, or in conflict with, those issues, and to limit the reports' airtime to around 13 minutes. However, the initial season was troubled by lack of network confidence, as the program did not garner ratings much higher than that of other CBS News documentaries. As a rule, during that era, news programming during prime time lost money; networks mainly scheduled public affairs programs in prime time in order to bolster the prestige of their news departments, and thus boost ratings for the regular evening newscasts, which were seen by far more people than documentaries and the like. 60 Minutes struggled under that stigma during its first three years.
Changes to 60 Minutes came fairly early in the program's history. When Reasoner left CBS to co-anchor ABC's evening newscast (he would return to CBS and 60 Minutes in 1978), Morley Safer joined the team in 1970, and he took over Reasoner's duties of reporting less aggressive stories. However, when Richard Nixon began targeting press access and reporting, even Safer, formerly the CBS News bureau chief in Saigon and London, began to do "hard" investigative reports, and during the 1970–71 season alone 60 Minutes reported on cluster bombs, the South Vietnamese Army, draft dodgers, Nigeria, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland.
By 1971, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the Prime Time Access Rule, which freed local network affiliates in the top 50 markets (in practice, the entire network) to take a half-hour of prime time from the networks on Mondays through Saturdays and one full hour on Sundays. Because nearly all affiliates found production costs for the FCC's intended goal of increased public affairs programming very high and the ratings (and by association, advertising revenues) low, making it mostly unprofitable, the FCC created an exception for network-authored news and public affairs shows. After a six-month hiatus in late 1971, CBS found a prime place for 60 Minutes in a portion of that displaced time, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. (Eastern; 5:00 to 6:00 Central Time on Sundays, in January 1972.
This proved somewhat less than satisfactory, however, because in order to accommodate CBS' telecasts of late afternoon National Football League (NFL) football games, 60 Minutes went on hiatus during the fall from 1972 to 1975 (and the summer of 1972). This took place because football telecasts were protected contractually from interruptions in the wake of the infamous "Heidi Bowl" incident on NBC in November 1968. Despite the irregular scheduling, the program's hard-hitting reports attracted a steadily growing audience, particularly during the waning days of the Vietnam War and the gripping events of the Watergate scandal; at that time, few if any other major network news shows did in-depth investigative reporting to the degree carried out by 60 Minutes. Eventually, during the summers of 1973 through 1975, CBS did allow the program back onto the prime time schedule proper, on Fridays in 1973 and Sundays the two years thereafter, as a replacement for programs aired during the regular television season.
It was only when the FCC returned an hour to the networks on Sundays (for children's/family or news programming), which had been taken away from them four years earlier, in a 1975 amendment to the Access Rule that CBS finally found a viable permanent timeslot for 60 Minutes. When a family-oriented drama, Three for the Road, ended after a 12-week run in the fall, the newsmagazine took its place at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time (6:00 Central) on December 7. It has aired at that time since, for 40 years as of 2015, making 60 Minutes not only the longest-running prime time program currently in production, but also the television program (excluding daily programs such as evening newscasts or morning news-talk shows) broadcasting for the longest length of time at a single time period each week in U.S. television history.
This move, and the addition of then-White House correspondent Dan Rather to the reporting team, made the program into a strong ratings hit and, eventually, a general cultural phenomenon. This was no less than a stunning reversal of the historically poor ratings performances of documentary programs on network television. By 1976, 60 Minutes became the top-rated program on Sunday nights in the U.S. By 1979, it had achieved the #1 spot among all television programs in the Nielsen ratings, unheard of before for a news broadcast in prime time. This success translated into great profits for CBS; advertising rates went from $17,000 per 30-second spot in 1975 to $175,000 in 1982.
The program sometimes does not start until after 7:00 p.m. Eastern, due largely to CBS' live broadcast of NFL games. At the conclusion of an NFL game, 60 Minutes will air in its entirety. However, on the West Coast (and all of the Mountain Time Zone), because the actual end of the live games is much earlier in the afternoon in comparison to the Eastern and Central time zones, 60 Minutes is always able to start at its normal start time of 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time, leaving affiliates free to broadcast local news, the CBS Evening News, and other local or syndicated programming leading up to 60 Minutes. The program's success has also led CBS Sports to schedule events (such as the Masters Tournament and daytime games of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament) leading into 60 Minutes and the rest of the network's primetime lineup, thus (again, except on the West Coast) pre-empting the Sunday editions of the CBS Evening News and affiliates' local newscasts.
With complaints of late starts because of late NFL games, starting in the 2012-13 season, CBS officially changed the start time of 60 Minutes to 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Sundays when the network is scheduled to air an NFL doubleheader (there are nine during the NFL season – eight during the first 16 weeks of the season, and the final week).
The program has rarely been pre-empted since 1978. Two notable pre-emptions occurred in 1976 and 1977, to make room for the annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz, which had recently returned to CBS after having been shown on NBC for eight years. However, CBS would, in later years, schedule the film so that it would no longer pre-empt 60 Minutes. Another exception is on years when CBS airs the Super Bowl or since 2003, alternating years where the AFC Championship Game has the 6:30 p.m. Eastern start time, which is played into prime-time and followed by a special lead-out program.
On September 22, 2013, CBS chose to pre-empt 60 Minutes as a result of carrying the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards after an NFL doubleheader.
60 Minutes is also simulcast on several CBS Radio stations ( such as KYW in Philadelphia, WCBS in New York City, KNX in Los Angeles, WBBM in Chicago, WWJ in Detroit and KCBS in San Francisco) when it airs locally on their sister CBS Television Network affiliate; even in the Central and Eastern time zones, the show is aired at the top of the hour at 7 p.m./6 p.m Central (barring local sports play-by-play pre-emptions and breaking news coverage) no matter how long the show is delayed on CBS Television, resulting in radio listeners often hearing the show on those stations ahead of the television broadcast. An audio version of each broadcast without advertising began to be distributed via podcast and the iTunes Store, starting with the September 23, 2007 broadcast. Video from 60 Minutes (including full episodes) is also made available for streaming several hours after the program's initial broadcast on CBSNews.com and CBS Interactive property CNET TV.
60 Minutes consists of three long-form news stories, without superimposed graphics. There is a commercial break between two stories. Each story is introduced from a set with a backdrop resembling pages from a magazine story on the same topic. The program undertakes its own investigations and follows up on investigations instigated by national newspapers and other sources. Unlike its most famous competitor 20/20 as well as traditional local and national news programs, the 60 Minutes journalists never share the screen with (or speak to) other 60 Minutes journalists on camera at any time. This creates a strong psychological sense of intimacy between the journalist and the television viewer.
60 Minutes blends the probing journalism of the seminal 1950s CBS series See It Now with Edward R. Murrow (a show for which Hewitt served as the director for its first few years) and the personality profiles of another Murrow program, Person to Person. In Hewitt's own words, 60 Minutes blends "higher Murrow" and "lower Murrow".
For most of the 1970s, the program included Point/Counterpoint, in which a liberal and a conservative commentator debated a particular issue. This segment originally featured James J. Kilpatrick representing the conservative side and Nicholas von Hoffman for the liberal, with Shana Alexander taking over for von Hoffman after he departed in 1974. The segment was an innovation that caught the public imagination as a live version of competing editorials. Point/Counterpoint was also lampooned by the NBC comedy series Saturday Night Live, which featured Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd as debaters, with Aykroyd typically beginning his remarks with, "Jane, you ignorant slut" and Curtin with "Dan, you pompous ass"; in the 1980 film Airplane!, in which the faux Kilpatrick argues in favor of the plane crashing; and in the earlier sketch comedy film, The Kentucky Fried Movie, where the segment was called "Count/Pointercount".
A similar concept was revived briefly in March 2003, this time featuring Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, former opponents in the 1996 presidential election. The pair agreed to do ten segments, called "Clinton/Dole" and "Dole/Clinton" in alternating weeks, but did not continue into the 2003–04 fall television season. Reports indicated that the segments were considered too gentlemanly, in the style of the earlier "Point/Counterpoint", and lacked the feistiness of Crossfire.
From 1978 to 2011, the program usually ended with a (usually light-hearted and humorous) commentary by Andy Rooney expounding on topics of wildly varying import, ranging from international politics, to economics, and to personal philosophy on everyday life. One recurring topic was measuring the amount of coffee in coffee cans.
Rooney's pieces, particularly one in which he referred to actor Mel Gibson as a "wacko", on occasion led to complaints from viewers. Rooney published several books documenting his contributions to the program, including Years Of Minutes and A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney. Rooney retired from 60 Minutes, delivering his final commentary on October 2, 2011; it was his 1,097th commentary over his 34-year career on the program. He died one month later, on November 4, 2011. The November 13, 2011, edition of 60 Minutes featured an hour-long tribute to Rooney and his career, and included a rebroadcast of his final commentary segment.
The opening sequence features a 60 Minutes "magazine cover" with the show's trademark, an Aristo stopwatch, intercut with preview clips of the episode's stories. The sequence ends with each of the current correspondents and hosts introducing themselves. The last host who appears (currently Scott Pelley) then currently says, "Those stories tonight on 60 Minutes". When Rooney was a prominent fixture, the final line was "Those stories and Andy Rooney, tonight on 60 Minutes". Before that, and whenever Rooney did not appear, the final line was "Those stories and more, tonight on 60 Minutes".
60 Minutes was the first, and remains the only, regularly scheduled program in the U.S. to never have used theme music. The only "theme" is the ticking of the stopwatch, which counts off each of the broadcast's titular 60 minutes, starting from zero at the beginning of each show. It is seen during the opening title sequence, before each commercial break, and at the tail-end of the closing credits, and each time it appears it displays (within reasonable accuracy) the elapsed time of the episode to that point.
On October 29, 2006, the opening sequence changed from a black background, which had been used for over a decade, to white. Also, the gray background for the Aristo stopwatch in the "cover" changed to red, the color for the title text changed to white, and the stopwatch itself changed from the diagonal position it had been oriented in for 31 years to an upright position.
Videos and transcripts of 60 Minutes editions, as well as clips that were not included in the broadcast are available on the program's website. In September 2010, the program launched a website called "60 Minutes Overtime", in which stories broadcast on-air are discussed in further detail.
CBS Interactive released a mobile app in 2013, "60 Minutes for iPad", which allows users to watch 60 Minutes on iPad devices and access some of the show's archival footage.Current hosts
Steve Kroft (host, 1989–present, co-editor)
Lesley Stahl (host, 1991–present, co-editor)
Scott Pelley (host, 2003–present); also anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News
Lara Logan (part-time correspondent, 2005–2012; host, 2012–present)
Bill Whitaker (host, 2014–present)
Current part-time correspondents
Anderson Cooper (2006–present); also at CNN
Charlie Rose (2008–present); also co-anchor of CBS This Morning
Norah O'Donnell (2013–present); also co-anchor of CBS This Morning
Sharyn Alfonsi (2015–present); also correspondent for 60 Minutes Sports
Harry Reasoner † (host, 1968–1970 and 1978–1991)
Mike Wallace † (host, 1968–2006; correspondent emeritus 2006–2008)
Morley Safer † (part-time correspondent, 1968–1970; host, 1970–2016)
Dan Rather (part-time correspondent, 1968–1975; host, 1975–1981 and 2005–2006) - now at AXS TV
Ed Bradley † (part-time correspondent, 1976–1981; host, 1981–2006)
Diane Sawyer (part-time correspondent, 1981–1984; host, 1984–1989) - now at ABC News
Meredith Vieira (part-time correspondent, 1982–1985 and 1991–1993; host, 1990–1991) - had a syndicated talk show
Bob Simon † (1996–2015)
Christiane Amanpour (part-time correspondent, 1996–2000; host, 2000–2005); now at CNN, CNN International and ABC News
Former part-time correspondents
Walter Cronkite † (1968–1981)
Charles Kuralt † (1968–1979)
Roger Mudd (1968–1980)
Bill Plante (1968–1995)
Eric Sevareid † (1968–1969)
John Hart (1969–1975)
Bob Schieffer (1973–1996)
Morton Dean (1975–1979) - retired
Marlene Sanders (1978–1987) - retired
Charles Osgood (1981–1994) - host of CBS News Sunday Morning
Forrest Sawyer (1985–1987)
Connie Chung (1990–1993) - retired
Paula Zahn (1990–1999)
John Roberts (1992–2005)
Russ Mitchell (1995–1998) - now at WKYC
Carol Marin (1997–2002) - now at WMAQ-TV
Bryant Gumbel (1998–2002) - now at HBO Sports
Katie Couric (2006–2011)
Byron Pitts (2009–2013) - now at ABC News
Alison Stewart (2012)
Sanjay Gupta (2011–2014) - now at CNN
Commentators for 60 Minutes have included:James J. Kilpatrick † (conservative debater, 1971–1979)
Nicholas von Hoffman (liberal debater, 1971–1974)
Shana Alexander † (liberal debater, 1975–1979)
Andy Rooney † (commentator, 1978–2011)
Stanley Crouch (commentator, 1996)
Molly Ivins † (liberal commentator, 1996)
P. J. O'Rourke (conservative commentator, 1996)
Bill Clinton (liberal debater, 2003)
Bob Dole (conservative debater, 2003)
† = Deceased
Based on ratings, 60 Minutes is the most successful program in U.S. television history, since it was moved into its present timeslot in 1975. For five of its seasons it has been that year's top program, a feat matched by the sitcoms All in the Family and The Cosby Show, and surpassed only by the reality competition series American Idol, which had been the #1 show for eight consecutive seasons from the 2003–04 television season up to the 2010–11 season. 60 Minutes was a top ten show for 23 seasons in a row (1977–2000), an unsurpassed record.
60 Minutes first broke into the Nielsen Top 20 during the 1976–77 season. The following season, it was the fourth-most-watched program, and by 1979–80, it was the number one show. During the 21st century, it remains among the top 20 programs in the Nielsen ratings, and the highest-rated news magazine.
The November 16, 2008, edition, featuring an interview with President-Elect Barack Obama, earned a total viewership of 25.1 million viewers.
The October 6, 2013, edition (which was delayed by 44 minutes that evening due to a Denver Broncos-Dallas Cowboys NFL game) drew 17.94 million viewers; retaining 63% of the 28.32 million viewers of its lead-in, and making it the most watched 60 Minutes broadcast since December 16, 2012.
The December 1, 2013, edition (delayed 50 minutes due to a Broncos-Kansas City Chiefs game) was watched by 18.09 million viewers, retaining 66% of its NFL lead-in (which earned 28.11 million viewers during the 7:00 p.m. hour).
As of October 1, 2013, 60 Minutes had won a total of 106 Emmy Awards, a record unsurpassed by any other primetime program on U.S. television.
The program has won 20 Peabody Awards for segments including "All in the Family", an investigation into abuses by government and military contractors; "The CIA's Cocaine", which uncovered CIA involvement in drug smuggling; "Friendly Fire", a report on incidents of friendly fire in the Gulf War; "The Duke Rape Case", an investigation into accusations of rape at an off campus lacrosse team party in 2006; and "The Killings in Haditha", an investigation into the killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines.
The show received an Investigative Reporter and Editor medal for their segment "The Osprey", documenting a Marine cover-up of deadly flaws in the V-22 Osprey aircraft.
In 1983, a report by Morley Safer, "Lenell Geter's in Jail", helped exonerate a Texas man who was wrongly convicted and imprisoned for armed robbery.
60 Minutes currently holds the record for the longest continuously running program of any genre scheduled during American network prime time; it has aired at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Sundays since December 7, 1975 (although since 1998, it is officially scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Sundays where a CBS affiliate has a late NFL game).
The longer-running Meet the Press has also aired in prime time, however it has been a daytime program for most of its history. The Walt Disney anthology television series, which premiered in 1954, and the Hallmark Hall of Fame, which has aired since 1951, have aired longer than 60 Minutes, but none of them has aired in prime time continually, as 60 Minutes has done.
The show has been praised for landmark journalism and received many awards. However, it has also become embroiled in some controversy, including (in order of appearance):
On November 23, 1986, 60 Minutes aired a segment greenlit by Hewitt, concerning the Audi 5000 automobile, a popular German luxury car. The story covered a supposed problem of "unintended acceleration" when the brake pedal was pushed, with emotional interviews with six people who sued Audi (unsuccessfully) after they crashed their cars, including one woman whose 6-year-old boy had been killed. In the 60 Minutes segment footage was shown of an Audi 5000 with the accelerator "moving down on its own", accelerating the car. It later emerged that an expert witness employed by one of the plaintiffs modified the accelerator with a concealed device, causing the "unintended acceleration". Independent investigators concluded that this "unintended acceleration" was most likely due to driver error, where the driver let their foot slip off the brake and onto the accelerator. Tests by Audi and independent journalists showed that even with the throttle wide open, the car would simply stall if the brakes were actually being used.
The incident devastated Audi sales in the United States, which did not rebound for 15 years. The initial incidents which prompted the report were found by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada to have been attributable to operator error, where car owners had depressed the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal. CBS issued a partial retraction, without acknowledging the test results of involved government agencies. Years later, Dateline NBC, a rival to 60 Minutes, was found guilty of similar tactics regarding the fuel tank integrity of General Motors pickup trucks.
In February 1989, 60 Minutes aired a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council claiming that the use of daminozide (Alar) on apples presented an unacceptably high health risk to consumers. Apple sales dropped and CBS was sued unsuccessfully by apple growers. Alar was subsequently banned for use on food crops in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
On March 3, 1991, 60 Minutes broadcast "Werner Erhard," which dealt with controversies involving Erhard's personal and business life. One year after the 60 Minutes piece aired, Erhard filed a lawsuit against CBS, claiming that the broadcast contained several "false, misleading and defamatory" statements about himself. One month after filing the lawsuit, Erhard filed for dismissal. Erhard later told Larry King in an interview that he dropped the suit after receiving legal advice telling him that in order to win it, he had to prove not only that CBS knew the allegations were false but also that CBS acted with malice. Because of factual inaccuracies, the segment was later removed by CBS from its archives, with a disclaimer: "This segment has been deleted at the request of CBS News for legal or copyright reasons."
In 1995, former Brown & Williamson Vice President for Research and Development Jeffrey Wigand provided information to 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman that B&W had systematically hidden the health risks of their cigarettes (see transcription). Furthermore, it was alleged that B&W had introduced foreign agents (such as fiberglass and ammonia) with the intent of enhancing the effect of nicotine. Bergman began to produce a piece based upon the information, but ran into opposition from Don Hewitt who, along with CBS lawyers, feared a billion dollar lawsuit from Brown and Williamson for tortious interference for encouraging Wigand to violate his non-disclosure agreement. A number of people at CBS would benefit from a sale of CBS to Westinghouse Electric Corporation, including the head of CBS lawyers and CBS News. Also, because of the interview, the son of CBS President Laurence Tisch (who also controlled Lorillard Tobacco) was among the people from the big tobacco companies at risk of being caught having committed perjury. Due to Hewitt's hesitation, The Wall Street Journal instead broke Wigand's story. The 60 Minutes piece was eventually aired with substantially altered content and minus some of the most damning evidence against B&W. The exposé of the incident was published in an article in Vanity Fair by Marie Brenner, entitled "The Man Who Knew Too Much".
The New York Times wrote that "the traditions of Edward R. Murrow and "60 Minutes" itself were diluted in the process," though the newspaper revised the quote slightly, suggesting that 60 Minutes and CBS had "betrayed the legacy of Edward R. Murrow". The incident was turned into a seven-times Oscar-nominated feature film entitled The Insider, directed by Michael Mann and starring Russell Crowe as Wigand, Al Pacino as Bergman, and Christopher Plummer as Mike Wallace. Wallace denounced the portrayal of him as inaccurate to his stance on the issue.
60 Minutes alleged in 1997 that agents of the U.S. Customs Service ignored drug trafficking across the Mexico–United States border at San Diego. The only evidence was a memorandum apparently written by Rudy Camacho, who was the head of the San Diego branch office. Based on this memo, CBS alleged that Camacho had allowed trucks belonging to a particular firm to cross the border unimpeded. Mike Horner, a former Customs Service employee, had passed the memos on to 60 Minutes, and even provided a copy with an official stamp. Camacho was not consulted about the piece, and his career was devastated in the immediate term as his own department placed suspicion on him. In the end, it turned out that Horner had forged the documents as an act of revenge for his treatment within the Customs Service. Camacho sued CBS and settled for an undisclosed amount of money in damages. Hewitt was forced to issue an on-air retraction.
A legal battle between archaeologists and the Umatilla tribe over the remains of a skeleton, nicknamed Kennewick Man, was reported by 60 Minutes on October 25, 1998, to which the Umatilla tribe reacted negatively. The tribe considered the segment heavily biased in favor of the scientists, cutting out important arguments, such as explanations of Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The report focused heavily on the racial politics of the controversy and also added inflammatory arguments, such as questioning the legitimacy of Native American sovereignty – much of the racial focus of the segment was later reported to have been either unfounded and/or misinterpreted.
On March 12, 2000, 60 Minutes aired an interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. At the time, McVeigh had already been convicted and sentenced to death for the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and subsequent deaths of 168 people. On the program, McVeigh was given the opportunity to vent against the government. Following the program, a federal policy called the Special Confinement Unit Media Policy was enacted prohibiting face-to-face interviews with death row inmates. A federal inmate challenged the policy in Hammer v. Ashcroft, under which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the prison policy. In March 2010, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case, and the policy limiting media access to death row inmates remains in place. CBS refuses to show the entire interview, and has stated no reasons.
In recent years, the program has been accused of promoting books, films, and interviews with celebrities who are published or promoted by sister businesses of media conglomerate Viacom (which owned CBS from 2000 to 2005, and is now owned by National Amusements, which is also the parent of CBS) and publisher Simon & Schuster (which remains a part of CBS Corporation after the 2005 CBS/Viacom split), without disclosing the journalistic conflict-of-interest to viewers.
The Killian documents controversy (also referred to as Memogate or Rathergate) involved six documents critical of President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard in 1972–73. Four of these documents were presented as authentic in a 60 Minutes Wednesday broadcast aired by CBS on September 8, 2004, less than two months before the 2004 Presidential Election, but it was later found that CBS had failed to authenticate the documents. Subsequently, several typewriter and typography experts concluded the documents are forgeries, as have some media sources. No forensic document examiners or typography experts authenticated the documents, which may not be possible without original documents. The provider of the documents, Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, claimed to have burned the originals after faxing copies to CBS. The whole incident was turned into a feature-length film entitled Truth.
A segment aired on the March 29, 2009, edition of 60 Minutes, "The Internet Is Infected", featured an interview with Don Jackson, a data protection professional for SecureWorks. Jackson himself declares in the program that: "A part of my job is to know the enemy". However, during the interview, Jackson showed a photo of Finnish upper-level comprehensive school pupils and misidentified them as Russian hackers. In the photo, one of the children is wearing a jacket with the Coat of Arms of Finland on it. Another one is wearing a cap which clearly has the logo of Karjala, a Finnish brand of beer, on it. The principal of the school in Taivalkoski confirmed that the photo was taken at the school about five years before the program was broadcast.
The photo's exact origins are unknown, but it is widely known in Finland, having been originally posted to a Finnish social networking site, IRC-Galleria, in the early 2000s. It spread all over Finnish internet communities, and even originated a couple of patriotically titled (but intentionally misspelled) mock sites. 60 Minutes later issued a correction and on-air apology.
Subsequent to the 2012 Benghazi attack, 60 Minutes aired report by correspondent Lara Logan on October 27, 2013, in which British military contractor, Dylan Davies, identified by CBS under the pseudonym "Morgan Jones," described racing to the Benghazi compound several hours after the main assault was over, scaling a 12-foot wall and knocking out a lone fighter with the butt of a rifle. He also claimed to have visited a Benghazi hospital earlier that night where he saw Ambassador Christopher Stevens' body.
In the days following the report, Davies' personal actions were challenged. The FBI, which had interviewed Davies several times and considered him a credible source, said the account Davies had given them was different than what he told 60 Minutes. Davies stood by his story, but the inconsistency ultimately prompted 60 Minutes to conclude it was a mistake to include Davies in their report and a correction was issued.
Following the correction, a journalistic review was conducted by Al Ortiz, CBS News' executive director of standards and practices. He determined that red flags about Davies' account were missed. Davies had said to the program and written in his book that he told an alternative version of his actions to his employer, who he said had demanded that he stay inside his Benghazi villa as the attack unfolded. That alternative version was shared with US authorities and 60 Minutes was unable to prove the story Davies had told them was true.
Davies' book, The Embassy House, was published two days after the 60 Minutes report, by Threshold Editions, part of the Simon and Schuster unit of CBS. It was pulled from shelves once 60 Minutes issued its correction.
On December 15, 2013, 60 Minutes aired a report on the National Security Agency (NSA) that was widely criticized as false and a "puff piece." The story was reported by John Miller, who once worked in the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
On March 30, 2014, 60 Minutes presented a story on the Tesla Model S luxury electric automobile in a segment, with Scott Pelley conducting an interview with CEO Elon Musk concerning the car brand as well as his SpaceX company. Within a day, the automotive blog site Jalopnik reported that the sounds accompanying footage of the car shown during the story were actually sounds from a traditional gasoline engine dubbed over the footage, when in reality the electric car is much quieter. CBS released a statement explaining that the sound was the result of an audio editing error, and subsequently removed the noise from the online version of the piece. However, several news outlets, as well as Jalopnik itself, have expressed doubt over the authenticity of this explanation, noting the similar scandal involving Tesla Motors and The New York Times in 2013.
The main 60 Minutes show has created a number of spin-offs over the years.
30 Minutes was a newsmagazine aimed at children that was patterned after 60 Minutes, airing as the final program in CBS's Saturday morning lineup from 1978 to 1982. It was hosted by Christopher Glenn (who also served as the voice-over for the interstitial program In the News and was an anchor on the CBS Radio Network), along with Betsy Aaron (1978–1980) and Betty Ann Bowser (1980–1982).
60 Minutes More was a spin-off that ran for one season from 1996 to 1997. The episodes featured popular stories from the past that were expanded with updates on the original story. Each episode featured three of these segments.
In 1999, a second edition of 60 Minutes was started in the U.S., called 60 Minutes II. This edition was later renamed 60 Minutes by CBS for the fall of 2004 in an effort to sell it as a high-quality program, since some had sarcastically referred to it as 60 Minutes, Jr. CBS News president Andrew Heyward said, "The Roman numeral II created some confusion on the part of the viewers and suggested a watered-down version". However, a widely known controversy which came to be known as "Rathergate", regarding a report that aired September 8, 2004, caused another name change. The program was retitled 60 Minutes Wednesday both to differentiate itself and to avoid tarnishing the Sunday edition, as the editions were editorially independent from one another. It reverted to its original Roman numeral title on July 8, 2005, when the program moved to Fridays in an 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time slot to finish its run. The show's final broadcast was on September 2, 2005.
In 2011, CNBC began airing a 60 Minutes spin-off of its own, called 60 Minutes on CNBC. Hosted by Lesley Stahl and Steve Kroft, it airs updated business-related reports seen on the original broadcasts and offers footage that were not included when the segments first aired.
CBS News began producing a sports-themed version of 60 Minutes for corporate sister and premium channel Showtime in January 2013. The program, titled 60 Minutes Sports, includes two original segments along with a classic interview from the show's archives. Personalities from CBS Sports join the 60 Minutes team in contributing.
For the 60 Minutes 25th anniversary in 1993, Charles Kuralt interviewed Don Hewitt, the active correspondents, some former correspondents, and revisited notable stories and celebrities.
The Australian version of 60 Minutes premiered on February 11, 1979. It still airs each Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. on the Nine Network and affiliates. Although Nine Network has the rights to the format, as of 2007, it does not have rights to stories from the U.S. program. Nevertheless, stories from the flagship 60 Minutes program in the U.S. often air on the Australian program by subleasing them from Network Ten. In 1980, 60 Minutes won a Logie Award for their investigation of lethal abuses at the Chelmsford psychiatric hospital in Sydney.
In the mid-1980s, an edited version (approx. 30 minutes in length) of the U.S. broadcast edition of 60 Minutes was shown for a time on West German television. This version retained the English-language soundtrack of the original, but also featured German subtitles.
The New Zealand version of 60 Minutes has aired on national television since 1989, when it was originally launched on TV3. In 1992, the rights were acquired by TVNZ, who began broadcasting it in 1993. The network aired the program for nine years before dropping it in 2002 for its own program, entitled Sunday, which is currently the highest-rated current affairs show broadcast on New Zealand television, followed by 20/20. 60 Minutes was broadcast by rival network TV3, before switching to the Sky Television owned Prime channel in 2013, when the contract changed hands.
The original programs are shown in Portugal on SIC Notícias with introductory and closing remarks by journalist Mário Crespo.
The news program of National Broadcasting of Chile (TVN), the public television network in that country, was named 60 Minutos ("60 Minutes") from 1975 to 1988, but the program had no accusations of any kind and no investigative reporting.A Mexican version, which featured Juan Ruiz Healy serving as anchor, aired in the late 1970s and 1980s.
A Peruvian version aired in the early 1980s, called 60 Minutos. However, in the late 1980s there was also a similarly named series, but unrelated to the series produced by CBS News.
In 2004, Brazil's Rede Bandeirantes planned a licensed localized version, but the plan was canceled.
CBS Television Studios is rumoured to be planning licensed localized versions for several Latin American countries.
Edited reruns of 60 Minutes interviews have aired on various cable channels in the United States, including TV Land and ESPN Classic.
In Thailand, 60 Minutes (Thailand) was broadcast on TV 9 (from 1995 to 1997) and BBTV Channel 7 (from 2002 to 2003).