Neoliberalism: The Decline of Public Obligation

  • Brian Caterino


In the years following the establishment of PEG channels, a new political economic regime gained dominance in the US and the West: neoliberalism. This new regime marked a sea change in the philosophies of government leaders, the judiciary, and policy makers regarding the public obligations of media. The philosophies of the free market, deregulation and privatization, came to predominate, although in many ways neoliberalism, while embracing market fundamentalism, did not endorse the traditional views of earlier capitalism. After a discussion of the history and nature of neoliberalism, which emphasizes the role of government in shaping, if not intervening in, free markets, I detail some of the regulatory and political changes that were undertaken in the neoliberal era, focusing on media issues including the organizations influenced by ALEC, which strove to either eliminate cable franchises or move them to the state level, and the 1996 Communications Act, which relaxed ownership rules. Along with the withering away of the fairness doctrine they increased concentration and led to right-wing radio and television. The net effect of these changes was to limit the effectiveness of the public sphere as a forum for open debate in the media and undermine some of the efforts to revitalize civil society. More than in the post–World War II era, neoliberals sought to depoliticize social life and deeply limit and restrict democratic, even popular democratic, initiatives.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Caterino
    • 1
  1. 1.RochesterUSA

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