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Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195093940
ISBN-10: 0195093941
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Editorial Reviews


"This highly informative study gives an illuminating account of the formation of the mass media, the forces that determined their character, and the implications for functioning democracy. The questions addressed and the insights offered are also of great contemporary relevance, as telecommunications moves to a new stage, and problems of a very similar nature arise in new forms."--Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"His study succeeds in introducing us to the principled opposition to commercial broadcasting that existed during America's 1930's, and in so doing, makes a worthwhile contribution to the ongoing discourse on how mass media can be made to best serve a democracy."--American Historical Review

"Backed by impeccable scholarship, Robert McChesney's voice deserves to be heard. His book explodes the myth that the radio-TV environment of today was produced by some 'natural evolution' nurtured by the inherently democratic free market. This realization is especially relevant as Congress and the FCC make policy for constructing the Information Superhighway."--The Progressive

"Robert McChesney's contribution to our understanding of media history and reform movements is enormous."--Against the Current

"A valuable scholarly assessment of a critical period of policy decision-making....Important reading--perhaps the best telling of this short but centrally-important period."--Communications Booknotes

About the Author

Robert W. McChesney is at University of Wisconsin, Madison.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 26, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195093941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195093940
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,314,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of several books on the media, including the award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy, and a co-editor (with Ben Scott) of Our Unfree Press: 100 Years of Radical Media Criticism (both available from The New Press). He lives in Urbana, Illinois.

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on February 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
Robert McChesney has become one of our leading media critics and activists, and in this debut book from 1993 he was already adept at exploring why concentrated corporate media is an affront to democracy. Granted, at the time of this book McChesney was not yet wearing his democratic (small "d") politics so prominently on his sleeve, and was more concerned with the historical forces that have shaped the media mess that we're in now. While media reform is a struggling, yet growing, movement today, it was a force to be reckoned with the last time media policy was a source of widespread public concern in this country. That was way back in the 1928-1935 period, when the federal government was still trying to figure out how to regulate the airwaves, resulting in the 1934 creation of the FCC. At the time, it would have still been possible to create a true public broadcasting system in America, with benefits for civil society and social justice, as well as for-profit companies who would be encouraged to use the system wisely. But instead we ended up with the current advertiser-driven lowest-common-denominator system, in which mega-conglomerate corporate profits are the main (and usually the only) concern for federal media and telecommunications policy.

McChesney provides plenty of evidence that this emergence of a corporate media system was not inevitable and was instead the result of government deliberations in which fairly well-organized non-profit activists (especially religious, educational, and labor groups) were unable to resist an onslaught of self-serving rhetoric and influence peddling by the big media companies.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr Parallel on September 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
and I wouldn't be surprised if they're riding on their Martian bike.

This book is a sad joke and a frivolous, ideologically-poisoned waste of thousands of hours of archival research. McChesney, whose reputation as the academic pundit King of All Media is based on the rickety foundation of this misbegotten work, imagines himself to be doing muscular, old-school political economy, and this, I surmise, is what licenses him to write his narrative in a hermetic cultural vacuum. But that's messed up on both counts.

What do I mean by cultural vacuum? Click through to the "Search Inside" function and enter "jazz" as a search term. You'll get exactly two hits. Two. This is . . . problematic for a book about broadcasting in the Jazz Age. That's because people never shut up about jazz and its implications for broadcasting. Jazz, you see, signified at the time as evil set to melody: it was gangsta rap, death metal and punk rock rolled into one. But McChesney doesn't want to talk about that, because all of his bourgeois reformers were on the wrong side of history where jazz was concerned. But if you were against commercialism in 1928 through 1935, you were also against jazz, because it was catchpenny commercial garbage in league with the Devil, as opposed to the philanthropically-subsidized cultural spinach that it is today.

Now run a search on vaudeville: One solitary hit.

Now run a search on Tin Pan Alley: Zip. Zero. Nada. Sweet Fanny Adams. Not a sausage. Mayor McCheese has never heard of America's gargantuan, world-conquering, popular music industry, not its signature weapon of conquest, which we would call payola but was then known as song plugging.
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