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Subject: AEJ 99 McCauleM QS Theorizing NPR: Broadcasting and the public sphere
From: [log in to unmask]
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 29 Sep 1999 06:41:48 EDT

TEXT/PLAIN (742 lines)




Michael P. McCauley
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Communication and Journalism
University of Maine
5724 Dunn Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5724

(207) 581-1941
<[log in to unmask]>

Paper submitted to the Qualitative Studies Division, for the annual convention
of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, New
Orleans, LA,  August 1999



        The mission statements of America's public broadcasting organizations lead one
to believe that they are vehicles for truly democratic broadcasting.  But this
industry operates within a wider commercial ethos; hence, it often "behaves" in
ways that seem contrary to stated missions.  Using NPR as a case study, this
paper situates public broadcasting within a three-tiered conception of media
performance in the public interest.  Specifically, it shows public
broadcasting's theoretical affinity with Habermas's public sphere.

        The original mission statement for National Public Radio

offers a glimpse of how the network's founders first

conceptualized the links between NPR, the American media system,

and the democratic State:

National Public Radio will serve the individual: it will promote personal
growth; it will regard the individual differences among men with respect and joy
rather than derision and hate; it will celebrate the human experience as
infinitely varied rather than vacuous and banal; it will encourage a sense of
active constructive participation, rather than apathetic helplessness...[1]

        In this document Bill Siemering, NPR's first program director, fused the ideas
of the network's Planning Board into a poetic -- some would say visionary --
statement about the promise of nationwide non-commercial broadcasting.  NPR was
to be different from the typical commercial radio network.  First, it would
allow effective participation in national programming decisions by member
stations across the nation; clearly, it was not to be a one-way channel of
communication radiating outward from a central hub.  Second, the network's
programs were to promote enlightened understanding among citizens; to "enable
the individual to better understand himself, his government, his institutions
and his natural and social environment so he can intelligently participate in
effecting the process of [social] change."  By fulfilling these first two goals
NPR might help citizens gain control of the political agenda at various levels
of government; to give them incentive to publicly state their preferences on
important policy matters.  Further, NPR would promote social equality.  By
hiring people from different class, racial and gender groups, and designing
programs to serve these same groups, the network would "help increase the
pleasure of living in a pluralistic society."[2]
        Siemering was not the only figure in the early history of public broadcasting
to conceptualize the service as a true broadcasting alternative comes quickly to
mind.  Indeed, members of the Carnegie Commission on Public Television said that
non-commercial TV (and, by extension, public radio) should constitute an
alternative to that which was already available.

We recognize that commercial television is obliged for the most part to search
for the uniformities within the general public, and to apply its skills to
satisfy the uniformities it has found.  Somehow we must seek out the diversities
as well, and meet them, too, with the full body of skills necessary for their

        Where can we find these diversities?  Members of the Carnegie Commission
thought that public affairs shows, children's programs and artistic
presentations would be a good place to start.  In all that it might do, public
broadcasting should strive to be "our Lyceum, our Chataqua, our Minsky's, and
our Camelot."[4]  A noble goal indeed, though it would take much conceptual work
to bring these dreams closer to fruition.
        Public broadcasting systems are typically designed -- at least on paper -- to
enhance the flow of news, information, and cultural content to citizens of a
democracy.  In this paper, I will explore the ties between mass media and
democracy in America.  Specifically, I will highlight the fact that our public
broadcasting system was designed, in part, to compensate for the inability of
market-driven stations to foster democratic ideals.  I will also provide a brief
survey of other public broadcasting systems, and then situate them within a
wider context of normative media theory.
        Those who write about the history of NPR must inevitably touch on the mission
statement that Bill Siemering wrote for the network in 1970.  Later in this
paper, I will relate the Siemering mission to the wider body of normative media
theory.  I will also hint at some problems that would make this mission tough to
implement later on.
Mass Media and Democracy
        Robert Dahl outlines four criteria for a democratic process: effective
participation in politics; voting equality at the decisive stage; enlightened
understanding of important issues; and control of the political agenda by
citizens.  Dahl admits these criteria may be impossible to achieve in a literal
sense; nonetheless, they serve as a useful starting point for further
discussions about mass media and democracy.[5]  The primary goal of a purely
democratic process is the achievement of a society in which the political
playing field is made level for all participants -- from working men and women
to policy elites.  The modern media of telecommunications can serve as useful
tools in this process.  Specifically, we may speak of three policy imperatives
through which the media can help narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots:

-       Efforts to ensure that information about the political agenda, appropriate in
level and form, and accurately reflecting the best knowledge available, is
easily and universally accessible to all citizens;

-       Efforts to help citizens participate in a relevant way in political
discussion; and

        -       Efforts to ensure that citizens may exert influence on the selection of
subjects on which mediated information is available.[6]

        These imperatives suggest a conceptualization of media audiences that Ien Ang
calls audience-as-public.

The audience-as-public consists not of consumers, but of citizens who must be
reformed, educated, informed as well as entertained -- in short, 'served' --
presumably to enable them to better perform their democratic rights and duties.
Within this context, broadcasting has nothing to do with the consumerist
hedonism of [American] commercial television.[7]

        Though useful in a normative sense, the audience-as-public conception fails to
account for the ways in which the news media have typically been structured in
the United States.  Ang's second conception of the audience for mass media --
audience-as- market -- comes much closer to prevailing practice.  In this view,
the transfer of meaningful information to citizens is of secondary importance;
the overriding goal is to make consumers aware of products or services, and to
pique their attention with highly entertaining programs.  A particular bit of
communication is considered effective as soon as audience members give their
attention it -- regardless of civic impact.[8]

Media Performance: The Commercial Approach
        The leaders of Western democracies have developed at least three different
approaches for ensuring media performance in the public interest.[9]  Each
contains its own conception of democracy, a set of desired goals or end-states,
and a set of favored procedures for achieving those end-states.  First, let us
consider the Commercial approach, one that squares with Ang's conception of
audience-as-market.  This approach now prevails in the United States and,
indeed, has a long history in other parts of the Western world.
        The monarchs of late medieval Europe often subordinated the press to the power
of the state and the ruling class.  But during the 16th century, printing became
a legitimate industry and its products an item of commerce.  This transformation
sparked a conflict that remains to this day -- a tension between the commercial
potential of the press and the perception held by rulers that it must somehow be
        The roots of the Commercial approach to media performance (sometimes called the
Free Market approach) can be traced to the emergence of the printed press from
official control in 18th century Europe.  It is now widely regarded as the main
legitimating principle for print media (and, increasingly, for broadcast media)
in liberal democracies.  Fundamentally, it holds that an individual should be
free to publish what he or she likes, because free and public expression is the
best way to arrive at the truth.  The rhetoric of the Commercial approach holds
that consumers have a great deal of control over radio programming.
Broadcasters maximize their profitability by offering programs they believe most
consumers will desire; therefore, the broadcasters who attract the most
listeners are those who best satisfy the public interest.  The Commercial
approach also holds that our news media should serve as useful sources of
information about happenings in the world outside the home, and as watchdogs
against corruption or tyranny in government.[11]
        It would be difficult for a reasonably enlightened person to disagree with
these statements; yet efforts to put them into practice have met with much
difficulty.  This has much to do with the institutional forms that press
organizations have assumed in the Western world.  Specifically, press freedom
has become identified with property rights, or the right to own and use means of
publication free from government interference.  The consequences of this view
have been noted frequently by critical communication scholars.  First of all, we
may note that the oligopolies which dominate Western media naturally reduce
audience choice and consumer control.[12]  Commercial media companies offer
quantitative audience ratings as proof of their attentiveness to certain
audience segments; yet, as Blumler, Brynin and Nossiter tell us, ratings say
nothing about the intensity of audience attraction to programs.

A programme with a fifteen million audience may have fifteen million tolerably
contented viewers, while a programme with a five million audience may command a
deeply loyal following whose satisfaction is far more intense.[13]

        These authors also point out that the audiences of commercial broadcasters
cannot actually demand a program; they "can only accept or reject a programme
after it has been shown."[14]
        Indeed, some of the leading proponents of the Commercial approach find that
audiences have little or no constitutional right of access to broadcast
messages.  The primary rights, they argue, lie with broadcasters whose interests
in radio properties must remain unfettered by demands for any particular kind of
content.[15]  Another criticism of commercial broadcasting is that the rising
capitalization of the industry restricts entry into the market.  Finally,
critical media scholars tend to dismiss the notion that commercial media
typically serve as watchdogs for the public, or as primary purveyors of
information useful to all citizens.[16]
        In the United States, commercial interests have dominated the electromagnetic
spectrum since the time of AT&T's "toll radio" experiment in 1922.  Non-profit
educational broadcasters offered an alternative to commercially driven
programming, yet these and other radio reformers were subsequently excluded from
effective participation in the broadcast spectrum for the next 50 years.  The
commercial radio lobby, working in concert with sympathetic Congressmen and
regulators, saw to it that most non-profit broadcasters were relegated to
time-share arrangements on marginal frequencies.  They were later moved to the
FM band -- well before many Americans had FM receivers.[17]
        In the late 1920s and early 1930s, various groups of broadcast reformers
agitated against the growing dominance of commercial interests in American
radio.  The details of their protest are discussed more fully in Chapter Three.
Briefly, these groups sensed that radio content backed by commercial sponsorship
would soon be dominated by the discourse of sales and marketing; that important
normative goals such as the provision of quality news, public affairs, and
educational programs would fall by the wayside.  These critics anticipated
concerns about America's dominant commercial broadcasting system that persist
today; namely that for-profit broadcasters treat audience members as consumers
who might please the station's sponsors by parting with a bit of their
hard-earned cash.  Stations that follow this path may well pad their bank
accounts; but in the process, they also cripple their own ability to stimulate
listener involvement in community affairs.[18]  In short, the market is not a
fair or neutral allocator of broadcast programming for American citizens.
Furthermore, the political economy of commercial broadcasting makes it difficult
for reporters employed by commercial stations to actually take part in the "free
marketplace of ideas" they learn about in journalism school.
        In the Commercial Approach, the public is conceived as a mass audience; "an
aggregate of potential consumers with a known social-economic profile at which a
medium or message is directed."[19]  This approach offers an economistic pathway
to the fulfillment of democratic values; theoretically, it allows no room for
regulators or other government authorities to influence the shape of media
content.  Advocates of the free market argue that government policy should help
create the media environment that allows for maximum competition; an environment
in which consumers exercise control over content through their influence on
        In terms of diversity, the free market approach holds that content should
reflect the interests of society's mainstream.  Further, content diversity
should be judged across all media; in other words, it's OK for any one station
to offer a narrow range of programs, so long as other kinds of content are
available elsewhere.  One important premise that undergirds this approach -- but
seldom appears in conversation about it -- is the notion that commercial media
depend on the maintenance of a strong consumer ethic.  In this view, audiences
fulfill their roles in the democratic process of communication by continuing to
purchase the consumer goods featured in print and broadcast advertisements.[20]

Alternative Views
The Public Service Approach
        This model of media performance is fundamentally a broadcasting model, one that
came into being in the first two decades of this century.  The British
government -- which, in 1922, created the British Broadcasting Company -- was
its  principal architect.  When British engineers, lawmakers and civil servants
looked for information on broadcasting systems they turned, naturally, to the
emerging radio industry in the United States.  But they promptly rejected the
American model of broadcasting for two reasons: (1) the audio chaos that ensued
from lax regulation of the electromagnetic spectrum; and (2) a fear of
"commercialized" programs on the part of Britain's opinion-forming classes.[21]
These tastes and perceptions soon led to the development of Public Service
radio; a form of broadcasting explicitly designed to serve the public good
rather than private gain.  Advocates of this approach feel the free market has
failed, in some ways, to deliver expected benefits to society.  They also view
the public as a superordinate entity composed of many social and cultural
        Yet members of this public do not always make decisions that serve the greater
good.  Hence, the notion of guardianship; that government agencies must help
decide what the greater good is, and then find ways to protect it.[22]  The
Public Service approach holds that all potential audience members should have
access to media content, at least in terms of reception.  Content should meet
minimum standards of informational quality, such as impartiality, ideological
balance, and avoidance of grossly bad taste.  Further, the media have a special
responsibility to help marginal groups communicate effectively with other
sectors of the superordinate public.  In terms of content diversity, advocates
of this approach seek a range of viewpoints that is wider than the conception of
mainstream content embraced by free marketeers.  And diversity should be judged
in two ways: across media, and within each medium.[23]
        The public service broadcasters of Western Europe, with their ethic of
comprehensive service, offer a good example of this approach in practice.
Unlike America, where the public/commercial split implies a division of
programming focus, European public broadcasters give their audiences a wide
array of programming -- "from Dallas... to Pavarotti," as one observer puts it.
These public service systems are pluralistic in terms of programs made,
audiences served, and responsiveness to various social sub-groups.  As organs of
their respective states, they  are also politicized; each tends to safeguard the
genres of news, current affairs, and political programming.  Finally, Public
Service broadcasters generally embody the value of anti-commercialism; the
notion that market forces should be kept at bay.[24]
        The Public Service approach is not without problems.  For one thing,
broadcasters that use it sometimes give off a strong scent of paternalism.

...public service broadcasting is explicitly conceived as an interventionist
institutional practice: it should presumably contribute to the construction of
"quality" citizens rather than merely catering to, and therefore reinforcing and
reproducing, the already existing needs and wants of consumers.  Succinctly, in
classic public service philosophy the project of broadcasting is an "art of
effects" aimed at reforming the audience.[25]

        The BBC and other public service broadcasting systems operate, to some extent,
on a foundation of guardianship and paternalism.  This begs the question of "who
guards the guardian?"  Indeed, the BBC has never been immune to influence from
the British government, the military, and the market; it learned how to censor
anti-government news during the general strike of 1926; how to transmit the
government's propaganda and "attitude management" messages during World War II;
and, eventually, how to secure bigger audiences through the provision of light
entertainment programs.[26]
        When examining this approach, it is also instructive to consider the case of
Canada.  Canadian broadcasting was first envisioned as a hybrid of the British
and American systems, in which both commercial and non-commercial stations would
operate under an umbrella of public service regulation.  Marc Raboy notes,
however, that commercial imperatives in his country have traditionally
superseded public service values; the result, he argues, is the diminishment of
broadcasting's democratic potential.  This tendency is now fairly relatively
common in public broadcasting systems throughout the Western World.  Commercial
broadcasters, armed with books full of ratings data, portray themselves as the
suppliers of "what the public wants," while State-funded broadcasters become
second-class citizens of the electromagnetic spectrum.  In Canada, this means
the government has failed to protect indigenous broadcasters and their audiences
from the influence of powerful competitors in the U.S.[27]

The Public Sphere Approach
        The importance of this approach lies in the potential for public communication
to serve as a mode of societal integration, one that would value citizenship
over consumerism.  We can trace the contours of this approach to the early
career of Jurgen Habermas, a political philosopher who, in the mid-1950s, became
part of the famous Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt.  Habermas was
fascinated with "the pathology of modernity" and astonished by the way that
businesses in Western countries seemed able to cultivate consumer demand.
        In his first major book, Habermas outlined the notion of a bourgeois public
sphere in 18th century Europe, a sense of public space that developed with the
advent of entrepreneurial capitalism.[28]  Meeting in coffee houses, political
clubs, and salons, the earliest entrepreneurs discussed newspapers and books,
engaged in political debate, and criticized the authority of the state.[29]
Unfortunately, this public sphere didn't last very long.  State censorship and
other factors helped diminish free public debate in the late 19th century.
Interest in book culture and politics declined, and the physical space of the
public sphere also deteriorated with the advent in the 20th century of suburbs
and shopping malls.  The function of public opinion formation gradually passed
from the realm of coffee house discussions and into the offices of opinion
managers.  Indeed, Habermas contends that public relations has become a major
force in the creation of legitimacy for the institutions of capitalist
societies.  He says this transformation has produced a public realm in which
organizations and governments create "spectacles" for largely passive audiences,
along with the illusion that the general public is made up of skeptical citizens
who freely form their own opinions.[30]
        Criticisms of the public sphere concept have been many and varied; indeed,
Habermas acknowledges many of them as valid.  Still, he and other commentators
maintain the value of the public sphere ideal as a normative guidepost for
communication in a democratic society.[31]  In order to apply this concept to
modern Western societies, they say, we must develop a post-bourgeois model of
the public sphere; one that exposes the limits of the specific form of democracy
enjoyed therein.  Nancy Fraser argues, for example, that a modern-day public
sphere must be based upon the elimination of inequality between the many publics
that constitute a society, and upon the establishment of a truly open process
for defining the broad agenda of public discourse.[32]
        The nation whose media system now embodies the greatest number of Public Sphere
values is the Netherlands.  McQuail ties these values to the overall context of
social pillarization in that country during the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries.[33]  Pillarization is the vertical stratification of social
structures around clusters of religious and non-religious groups., protestant and socialist political parties, trade unions, youth
clubs, schools, universities, women's organizations, housing corporations,
hospitals, welfare organizations, newspapers, sporting clubs, and so on.  All
believers were officially summoned to cluster themselves within these pillarized
organizations.  The system was functional insofar as it promoted peaceful
co-existence and cooperation between the diverse pillars, and effectively
neutralized the disruptive effects of class conflict and class struggle, because
it divided the population up along the lines of value systems rather than
economic interests.[34]

        Thus, the Dutch broadcasting system is open to all social groups that can
demonstrate a sufficient degree of popular support.[35]  Today, says Ien Ang,
some Dutch broadcasters have come to resemble commercial media outlets.  In her
view, however, "powerful remnants of the pillarized tradition still live on" in
the Netherlands, especially at the institutional level.[36]
        In the United States, the Public Sphere tradition is best embodied by Pacifica
Radio -- the broadcast arm of a larger foundation chartered in 1946 by pacifist
Lew Hill and his colleagues.[37]  Normative statements about this radio network
can be found in the charter of the Pacifica Foundation, which includes the
following proposals:

To engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding
between nations, races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information
on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups; and through any
and all means available to this society to promote the study of political and
economic problems, and the causes of religious, philosophical and racial

        The Pacifica network, one of the pillars of American community broadcasting,
was designed as an alternative to the commercialism of mainstream radio, and to
the most timid and conservative sectors of educational radio.  As William Barlow
puts it, Pacifica stations -- and other community broadcasters -- "use the
airways to promote community dialogue and to present audio evidence in support
of movements for progressive social change.  They seek to democratize
non-commercial radio in the U.S."[39]
        The Pacifica vision has never been free of internal problems.  The network
prides itself on listener-support; but with that support comes the problem of
conflicting visions of its mission.

On one side, there are those who view it as a newsletter of the left, meaning
the usual commitment to free-wheeling, open-access, anything-goes radio,  Then
there are those... who think Pacifica should be a newspaper of the left.  That
denotes a demanding, highly professional commitment to radical analysis and
genuine alternative programming.  It's really a case of one or the other.[40]

        Another observer notes that Pacifica has found it difficult to upgrade or
otherwise change programming "at stations that rely on volunteers, pay low
salaries, and lose good people to NPR."  In spite of its egalitarian mission,
then, Pacifica has been racked from the beginning by personal, political, and
financial difficulties.[41]
        Conservative politicians such as House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator Larry
Pressler of South Dakota have also  expressed great displeasure with a
non-commercial radio service that airs truly radical views.  Over the past two
years, some members of Congress have tried to end Federal support for Pacifica,
and to ascertain which current NPR journalists got their start at the smaller
network.  Despite all this pressure -- external and internal -- supporters of
Pacifica still claim that it has more democratic potential than any other form
of mass media operating in the United States.[42]
        In theoretical terms, the Public Sphere approach supports a collection of
mini-publics which must be maintained and protected in the face of efforts to
assimilate them into any superordinate group.  The conception of democracy here
is one in which the media (and other public institutions) help to dissolve as
many distinctions as possible between society's haves and have-nots.  Advocates
of the public sphere approach believe that all individuals should be able to
receive and send mediated messages.  They contend that any simple provision of
multicultural programming will not suffice; rather, they argue that the media
should provide methods through which shifting combinations of small-scale
subcultural interests can express themselves.[43]
        The public sphere approach is most distinctive in the way its proponents seek
to achieve normative goals.  It calls for a negotiation of social order between
competing interests; in fact, this process of negotiation should be facilitated
by the media.  Advocates of this approach also favor some form of social
ownership, so that certain media outlets can be kept free of commercial or
market influences.  Another key element is the explicit use of the political
communication process to stimulate citizen participation.  This might occur
through public participation in the agenda-building process within newsrooms; it
could also happen if ordinary citizens were better able to produce media content
        Besides Pacifica Radio and broadcasting in the Netherlands, the German
broadcasting system -- with its decentralized structure and autonomous
broadcasting policies for various national regions -- embodies some Public
Sphere values.  But elsewhere in the Western world, this approach remains more
an ideal than a reality.[45]

The Siemering Dream
        Clearly National Public Radio Purposes, the mission statement by Bill
Siemering, falls within the Public Sphere approach to media performance.  At
very least, Siemering and NPR's other charter Directors sought to distinguish
their service from that of commercial radio.

National Public Radio will not regard its audience as a "market" or in terms of
its disposable income, but as curious, complex individuals who are looking for
some understanding, meaning and joy in the human experience.[46]

        NPR would serve these curious, complex individuals by building a program
service that was interactive in at least two ways: through audience
representation by local stations, and through actual listener participation in
broadcasts of public hearings and other forums.  It would go beyond the
traditional Public Service approach by virtue of its pro-active role in
addressing social problems.  The network would not devote a large amount of
resources to programming for specific minority groups; it would serve them,
instead, with a regular program schedule that would speak with many dialects.
And NPR would offer public service programming not just because it's a good
thing to do, but rather to help listeners become "more responsive, informed
human beings and intelligent responsible citizens of their communities and the
        It would be specious to infer all of these values from one document; however,
they can be found in abundance in other things that Siemering has written over
the years.  Take, for example, this critique of commercial radio deejays...

The plastic, faceless morning men, afternoon men and night men who recycle like
a cartridge tape can be plugged into in any city.  They do not give us a sense
of individual community.  In the age of the information overload, we need a
broader definition of local news than one confined to auto accidents, fires, and
muggings; we need a more accurate barometer of what the public wants than top 40
charts and sales of cigarettes and acne lotion.[48]

        Or these comments about public radio written just a few

years ago.

Just as some stations have stripped 90% of their record library away from their
schedule, so distinct personalities will disappear, along with documentary,
feature and drama production.  There will be no rough edges or growing edges.
Public radio will have more of the uniform characteristics of a suburban mall
than unpredictable variety of an urban street.[49]

        Many of the people who worked for NPR in the early years agreed with the spirit
of Siemering's mission statement... and of his other writings.  But there was
one major problem; these writings contained almost no information about how to
implement the author's lofty goals on a day-to-day basis.  Everyone agreed on
the need for a flagship program, the sort of audio "magazine" that would
eventually become All Things Considered.  Beyond that, however, nagging
questions remained:  How best to serve the individual?  How to move people
beyond political apathy and into active participation?  How to make NPR an
efficient mediator of diverse audience concerns, without lapsing into a
market-driven programming mentality?
        These ideals are very difficult to fulfill in the United States and,
increasingly, in other Western societies.  The very notions of public sphere and
public interest are problematic in these societies since, as one observer puts
it, they embody a natural conflict "between the strivings of people for their
own betterment and the social benefit which might ensue from a partial or
temporary denial of self-gain."[50]  Clearly, individual economic rights are
prized more highly than collective rights in the United States.  Because of
this, the Siemering mission may be impossible to fulfil in any literal way.  I
argue that it retains much value, though, as a normative yardstick by which
NPR's progress toward greater democratic ideals can be measured.

* * *

        In this paper, I have briefly examined the relationship between mass media and
democracy and situated NPR within a branch of normative theory called the Public
Sphere approach.  Here, the potential for individual access to the reception and
transmission of mediated messages is valued over and above the profit motive
that drives commercial broadcasting.  NPR's mission statement described an
organization that could rise above crass commercialism and provide important
information and services to all citizens.  The network was conceived as an
active agent for change, one that would help level America's uneven
socio-cultural playing field.
        Other research demonstrates in detail the ways that NPR has sometimes failed to
meet these goals.  This fact should come as no great surprise; after all, it is
a Public Sphere institution located in a society that's thoroughly enamored with
the Commercial ethos.  Other authors have suggested reforms that could make NPR
and the rest of our public broadcasting system into a service that helps create
solid citizens - not just reliable consumers.  These suggestions include the
collection of some sort of public broadcasting fee from commercial broadcasters;
enhancing public participation in public broadcasting organizations; and the
funding of additional non-commercial program streams.[51]
        Perhaps the best way to make this sort of reform a reality is to convince
enough Americans that it is not ridiculous or far-fetched to imagine a
broadcasting system that promotes personal growth; that regards individual
differences among people  with respect and joy; that celebrates the human
experience as infinitely varied; and encourages a sense of active, constructive
participation.  If we believe these goals are possible, then we have traveled at
least part way down the path to attaining them.

[1] 1.  William H. Siemering, "National Public Radio Purposes," National Public
Broadcasting Archives (NPBA Mss), Elizabeth Young Papers, B1, F11, 1.
[2] 2.          Ibid., 1-2.

I have developed the four points of linkage between NPR, the media system and
the State by adapting the work of political scientist Robert Dahl.  See Dahl's
book titled, Democracy and its Critics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989),
pp. 108-113.
[3] 3.          Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, Public Television: A
Program for Action (New York: Bantam, 1967), 13-14.

Please note that the literature cited above -- and some of the other readings
that underpin this chapter -- are borrowed from the field of public television.
America's public radio and TV systems are different in some important ways;
nonetheless, discussions at the broadest levels of programming policy and
organizational structure can generally be applied to either medium.
[4] 4.          Ibid., 13.
[5] 5.          Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and its Critics (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1989), 108-14.
[6] 6.          Adapted from a discussion in Dahl, 338-39.
[7] 7.          Ien Ang, Desperately Seeking the Audience (London: Routledge, 1991),
[8] 8.          Ibid., 29; Denis McQuail, Mass Communication Theory: An Introduction
(London: Sage, 1987), 45-6.
[9] 9.          The concept of media performance is the subject of a fairly recent book.
See Denis McQuail, Media Performance: Mass Communication and the Public Interest
(London: Sage, 1992).
 [10] 10.               McQuail, 1987, 112-116.
[11] 11.                Ibid., 112-114; David Croteau and William Hoynes, By Invitation Only:
How the Media Limit Political Debate (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1994),
9-22; Mark S. Fowler and Daniel Brenner, "A Marketplace Approach to Broadcast
Regulation," Texas Law Review 60 (2) (1982), 209- 10, 232; U.S. Federal
Communications Commission, "Notice of Inquiry and Proposed Rulemaking in the
Matter of Deregulation of Radio," 73 FCC 2d 457, September 27, 1979, in ed. F.
J. Kahn, Documents of American Broadcasting, fourth ed., Kahn. Englewood Cliffs,
NJ: Prentice-Hall,
[12] 12.                McQuail, 1987, 114; William Hoynes, Public Television For Sale: Media,
the Market, and the Public Sphere (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 25-33;
Croteau and Hoynes, 22-4; Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, fourth ed.,
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1992); James Curran, "Mass Media and Democracy: A
Reappraisal," in ed. J. Curran and M. Gurevitch, Mass Media and Society (London:
Edward Arnold, 1991), 92; and Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing
Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 1988),
[13] 13.                Jay G. Blumler, Malcolm Brynin, and T.J. Nossiter, "Broadcasting
Finance and Programme Quality: an International Review, European Journal of
Communication 1 (1986), 357.
[14] 14.                Ibid., 358.  See also Hoynes, Public Television For Sale, 36.
[15] 15.                Fowler and Brenner, "A Marketplace Approach," 236-8; David Kelley and
Roger Donway, "Liberalism and Free Speech," in ed. J. Lichtenberg, Democracy and
Mass Media (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 77-81, 93.
[16] 16.                Curran, 93; Hoynes and Croteau, 15-22.
[17] 17.                Robert W. McChesney, Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy: The
Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1993), 20-27; Erik Barnouw, A Tower in Babel (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1966), 122; John Witherspoon and Roselle Kovitz, The

History of Public Broadcasting (Washington: Current,
        1987), 9.
[18] 18.                Hoynes, Public Television For Sale, 35-37; Robert W. McChesney,
"Public Broadcasting in the Age of Communication Revolution," Monthly Review
47(7) (December 1995), 10-11; Les Brown, "Living in a Nielsen Republic," in eds.
Les Brown and S. W. Walker, Fast Forward: The New Television and American
Society, (Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1983), 103-107.
[19] 19.                McQuail, Mass Communication Theory, 112, 221.
[20] 20.                Daniel J. Czitrom, Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), 79-81; Donald Hurwitz,
"Market Research and the Study of the U.S. Radio Audience," Communication 10
(1988), 237-9.
[21] 21.                Stephen Hearst, "Broadcasting Regulation in Britain," in ed. J. G.
Blumler, Television and the Public Interest: Vulnerable Values in West European
Broadcasting (London: Sage, 1992), 62-3; James Curran and Jean Seaton, eds.,
Power Without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain (London:
Routledge, 1991), 348-9; Asa Briggs, The BBC: The First Fifty Years (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1985), 19.
[22] 22.                McQuail, Mass Communication Theory, 116; Dahl, Democracy and its
Critics, 192.
[23] 23.                For more on the tenets of the Public Service approach, see Jay G.
Blumler, "Public Service Broadcasting Before the Commercial Deluge;" Blumler,
"Vulnerable Values at Stake; and Blumler and Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem, "New Roles
for Public Service Television" -- all contained in ed. J.G. Blumler, Television
and the Public Interest: Vulnerable Values in West European Broadcasting
(London: Sage, 1992).  See also Michael Gurevitch and Jay G. Blumler, "Political
Communication Systems and Democratic Values," in ed. J. Lichtenberg, Democracy
and the Mass Media (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 269-89; and
Blumler, Brynin and Nossiter, "Broadcasting Finance," 343-64.
[24] 24.                Willard D. Rowland, Jr., "Public Service Broadcasting: Challenges and
Responses," in Blumler and Nossiter, Broadcasting Finance, 333; Blumler, "Public
Service Broadcasting before the Commercial Deluge," in Blumler, ed., Television
and the Public Interest, 7-21.
[25] 25.                Ang, Desperately Seeking the Audience, 102-103.
[26] 26.                Jean Seaton, "Reith and the Denial of Politics," in eds. J. Curran and
J. Seaton, Power Without Responsibility, 143-186.
[27] 27.                Marc Raboy, Missed Opportunities: The Story of Canada's Broadcasting
Policy (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990).
[28] 28.                Craig Calhoun, "Habermas and the Public Sphere," in ed. C. Calhoun,
Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 6; R.
Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political
Significance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994), 504, 537-44; J. Habermas, The
Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
[29] 29 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 22-31.
[30] 30.                Ibid., 161, 193-195.
[31] 31.                See Nicholas Garnham, "The Media and the Public Sphere;" Jurgen
Habermas, "Further Reflections on the Public Sphere;" and Michael Schudson, "Was
There Ever a Public Sphere?  If so, When?  Reflections on the American Case" --
all in ed. C. Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere.  See also John Keane,
"Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere;" and Nicholas Garnham,
"Comments on John Keane's 'Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere'" --
both in The Communication Review 1 (1) (1995).
[32] 32.                See Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the
Critique of Actually Existing Democracy," in ed. C. Calhoun, Habermas and the
Public Sphere, 109-42.
[33] 33.                See Denis McQuail, "The Netherlands: Safeguarding Freedom and
Diversity under Multichannel Conditions," in ed. J. G. Blumler, Television and
the Public Interest, (London: Sage, 1992), 96.
[34] 34.                Ang, Desperately Seeking the Audience, 122.
 [35] 35.               McQuail, Media Performance, 62.
[36] 36.                Ang, 122.
[37] 37.        Ralph Engelman, Public Radio and Television in America: A Political
History (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995), 43-4.
[38] 38.                Quoted in Lloyd Trufelman, "The Missing Chapter: Pacifica Radio,"
Public Telecommunications Review 7 (5) (September/October 1979), 28.
[39] 39.                William Barlow, "Community Radio in the US: The Struggle for a
Democratic Medium," Media, Culture and Society 10 (1988), 101.
[40] 40.                Kevin J. Kelley, "Internal Warfare Wracks Pacifica Radio," The
Guardian, 19 October 1983, 9.
[41] 41.                Marc Fisher, "Pacifica's Next Wave," Mother Jones, May 1989, 50-2.
See also Joan Walsh, "The Battle Goes on at Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles," In
These Times, 7-13 December, 1983, 6, 10-11; Eric Mankin, "Internal Static at
Pacifica," In These Times, 26 October - 1 November 1983, 4; and Judy Strasser.
"After Thirty Years of Hearing and Making Community Radio..." In These Times,
12-18 September 1979, 20.
[42] 42.                See Engelman, 54-66, 73-75, 296-7; Barlow, "Community Radio," 103.
[43] 43.                See Dahl, Democracy and its Critics, 339-40; and McQuail, Mass
Communication Theory, 121-3.
[44] 44.                Hoynes, Public Television for Sale, 167-77.
[45] 45.                McQuail, Media Performance, 59; Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem, "Protecting
Vulnerable Values in the German Broadcasting Order," in ed. Blumler, Television
and the Public Interest, 43-60.

For more on the potential for public sphere values in Western democracies, see
eds. James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power Without Responsibility; and Douglas
Kellner, Television and the Crisis of Democracy, 179-219.
 [46] 46.               William Siemering, "National Public Radio Purposes," NPBA Mss,
Elizabeth Young Papers, B1, F11, 5.
[47] 47.                Ibid., 4-7, 10-12.
[48] 48.                Siemering, "Public Broadcasting -- Some Essential Ingredients,"
Educational/Instructional Broadcasting, November 1969, 68.
[49] 49.                Siemering, "The Future of Public Radio Programming," comments prepared
for the AIR Producers Conference, Forth Worth Texas, November 1992.
[50] 50.                Anthony Smith, "The Public Interest and Telecommunications, in ed.
P.R. Newberg, New Directions in Telecommunications Policy (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1989), 335.
[51] 51.                See James Ledbetter, Made Possible By: The Death of Public
Broadcasting in the United States (London: Verso, 1997); Michael McCauley, "From
the Margins to the Mainstream: The History of National Public Radio,"
unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1997; Hoynes,
Public Television for Sale, 167-77.

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