Advertisement

Public Interest Standards from Radio to Public Television

Chapter
  • 47 Downloads

Abstract

The history of radio and television communications in the United States does not reflect a simple path to the dominance of mass media. It was and still is the site of a prolonged struggle over the public obligations of media. The airwaves were considered public property and not owned but only licensed by operators, but public obligations in the United States came to be defined primarily in commercial terms. Still other groups lobbied for more extensive public obligations including reserving licenses for nonprofits—though their efforts were unsuccessful. They sought to direct the power of the new media of radio for democratic and educational purposes. The first wave of broadcast regulation culminated in the formation of the FCC in 1934 in which commercial interests predominated. Though there were some challenges to this in the early 1940s the next wave of activism arose in the 1950s with the movement for Public Educational Television. This was largely an elite-driven movement for “quality programming” in reaction to the low quality of network programming and the total lack of children’s programming on television. It led to the formation of PBS. The other significant initiative arose in the 1960s when the critique of network television extended to its virtual ignorance of minorities the poor or any group other than the white suburban nuclear family. The large networks largely conformed to the image of conformist media that Horkheimer and Adorno criticized. They did not do enough to promote discussion of controversial issues or to educate the public. The social movements of the times along with severe social conflicts also lend greater urgency to the need for democratic practices to spread throughout society.

The idea of public access influenced and was influenced by ideas of participatory democracy that arose with the new left. Democracy required extensive citizen participation both to involve all in political deliberation and also to strengthen community and existential commitment. New technologies also allowed individuals to easily create programming. PEG channels then were not simply a forum for individual expression but a creation of political community.

Bibliography

  1. Adorno, Theodor. 1941. On Popular Music. In Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, vol. IX, 17–48. New York: Institute of Social Research.Google Scholar
  2. Barnouw, Eric. 1966. A Tower in Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States to 1933. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 1968. The Golden Web: A History of Broadcasting in the United States vol 2 1933–53. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barsamian, David. 2001. The Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting: Creating Alternative Media. Boston: South End Press.Google Scholar
  5. Blakely, Robert J. 1979. To Serve the Public Interest: Educational Broadcasting in the United States. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Blau, Andrew. 1992. The Promise of Access. The Independent, April, pp. 22–26.Google Scholar
  7. Dempsey, John Mark, and Eric Gruver. June 2009. “The American System”: Herbert Hoover, the Associative State, and Broadcast Commercialism. Presidential Quarterly Studies 39 (2): 226–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. ———. 2012. ‘The Public Interest Must Dominate’: Herbert Hoover and the Public Interest, Convenience, and Necessity. Journal of Radio & Audio Media 19 (1): 96–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dewey, John. 1954. The Public and Its Problems. Swallow Press.Google Scholar
  10. Domhoff, G. William. The Ford Foundation in the Inner City: Forging an Alliance with Neighborhood Activists. https://whorulesamerica.ucsc.edu/local/ford_foundation.html.
  11. Douglas, Susan. 1989. Inventing American Broadcasting: 1899–1922. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Downing, John D.H. 2001. KPFA, Berkeley and Radio Free Berkeley. In Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements, ed. Downing, 325–344. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Engelman, Ralph. 1996. Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. FAIR. 1990. All the Usual Suspects: MacNeil/Lehrer and Nightline, May 27. Summary accessed at https://fair.org/press-release/all-the-usual-suspects-macneillehrer-and-nightline/.
  15. Geary, Daniel. 2009. Radical Ambition: C. Wright Mills, the Left, and American Social Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  16. Horowitz, Robert Britt. 1989. The Irony of Regulatory Reform: The Deregulation of American Telecommunications. New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  17. Horton, Gerd. 2002. Radio Goes to War: The Cultural Politics of Propaganda During WWII. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  18. Keith, Michael C. 2008. Writing About Radio: A Survey of Cultural Studies on Radio in Radio Cultures. In Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life, 305–320. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  19. Kellner, Douglas. 1990. Television and the Crisis of Democracy, 41ff. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  20. Killian, James R., et al. 1967. Public Television, A Program for Action, Report and Recommendations of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television. Basic Books.Google Scholar
  21. Ledbetter, James. 1998. Made Possible By … The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  22. Lenthall, Bruce. 2007. Radio’s America: The Great Depression and the Rise of Mass Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lowenthal, Leo, and Norman Guterman. 1949. Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  24. Macdonald, Dwight. 2011. Masskult and Midkult: Essays Against the American Grain. New York: New York Review Books.Google Scholar
  25. McChesney, Robert. 1993. Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of US Broadcasting, 1927–1935. New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2015. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. New ed. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mills, C. Wright. 1960. “Letter to the New Left” Is Considered One of the Founding Documents of the Movement in New Left Review No. 5, September–October. https://www.marxists.org/subject/humanism/mills-c-wright/letter-new-left.htm.
  28. ———. 2000. The Power Elite, 302–303. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Pickard, Victor. 2015. America’s Battle for Media Democracy; The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Riesman, David. 2001. The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. rev ed. New Haven: Yale.Google Scholar
  31. Streeter, Thomas. 1996. Selling the Air: A Critique of the Policy of Commercial Broadcasting in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Warner, Michael. 2005. Publics and Counter Publics. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  33. Williams, William Appleton. 2011. The Contours of American History. Brooklyn, NY: Verso.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations