Public Access Television: America's Electronic Soapbox

By Laura R. Linder; Douglas Kellner | Go to book overview

Introduction

Between 1983 and 1996, ownership of major media outlets in the United States shrank from fifty national and multinational corporations to ten. The majority of all the media is owned by these ten corporations. As Ben Bagdikian states in the preface to the fifth edition of his Media Monopoly, "[T]his handful of giants has created what is, in effect, a new communications cartel within the United States."1 As ownership of the mass media has become increasingly concentrated, two problems have emerged. The first is a further narrowing and homogenization of the range of opinions that are disseminated by the mass media; the second, which follows from the first, is decreasing coverage of local issues. A potential counterforce to both of these problems is public access television. This book is an attempt to show how public access television has addressed and can address these problems, and to identify key factors that will affect the continuation of public access television in the future. 2

Concentrated ownership has also meant greater media commercialization. Commercial mass media in the United States are in business to make money, and therefore must maximize the number of consumers exposed to sponsors' advertisements. Thus, there is a strong incentive to make media messages as entertaining as possible to attract as many consumers as possible to attract as many advertisers as possible. 3 Accordingly, in the search for the largest audience, media tend to emphasize general interest, lightweight, or sensationalistic fare to the exclusion of meaningful local issues. Audiences for more meaningful types of programming are often considered too small to deliver desirable demographics and an adequate market share. In their quest for the largest audience, most media tend to omit or marginalize the people who are not in the broadest majority audience. 4

Media consumers are rarely given the opportunity to hear voices not sponsored or influenced by corporate ownership or to disseminate their own messages. Ordinary people with something to say have few outlets. The only section of most

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Public Access Television: America's Electronic Soapbox
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures and Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Notes xix
  • Acknowledgments xxi
  • Introduction xxiii
  • Notes xxix
  • 1 - History of Public Access Television 1
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - Making Sense of Public Access Regulations 17
  • Notes 32
  • 3 - Current Status of Public Access Television 35
  • Notes 48
  • 4 - Current Funding Sources, Techniques, and Problems 51
  • Notes 68
  • 5 - The Future of Public Access Television 71
  • Notes 81
  • Appendix 1 - Questionnaire and Data 83
  • Appendix 2 - Federal Laws Regarding Public Access Procedures and Content 105
  • Appendix 3 - Table of Cited Law Cases 119
  • Appendix 4 - Special Resources 123
  • References 127
  • Index 147
  • About the Author *
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