The Corporate Takeover of Broadcasting
Radio broadcasting emerged dramatically in the early 1920s. By the end of the decade the modern network-dominated, advertising-supported system had become established. By 1935 radio was entrenched economically, politically and ideologically, and it would provide the basis for the eventual development of television in the 1940s and 1950s. What is generally not known is that a broad coalition representing popular groups mounted a spirited campaign to resist the corporate takeover of the airwaves. The opposition generated a sharp critique of commercial broadcasting as being inimical to the communication needs of a democratic society. They argued for a significant role for non-profit and non-commercial broadcasting. That struggle—for control of radio—was determined by powerful commercial interests. The battles of earlier decades have lessons for today, as public radio and TV are in acute peril.
Recorded at the University of Iowa.
Robert McChesney teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of many books including Digital Disconnect. He is co-author with John Nichols of Dollarocracy. He is the co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization. The Utne Reader listed him among its “50 visionaries who are changing the world.”