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After the Communications Act of 1934 decimated access for noncommercial media in the US, the media reform movement united around a public service mission statement to apply trial-and-error, system-building strategies to increase equal access to education through technology. Reformers laid groundwork for the first American noncommercial media industry by synthesizing a decentralized production culture, government clearinghouses, audience researchers, and philanthropic groups into a coalitional structure. Among reform strategies, advocates innovated creative forms of development and distribution without advertising support, a collaborative lobby, and convened research that inspired the discipline of communication studies. Besides the formation of NPR and PBS, this historical case study points to a rare example of an activist project that succeeded in changing public policy by pulling from an alternative logic to free-market ideology.
About the Speaker: Josh Shepperd is an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and the director of the Library of Congress Sound Submissions Project. His book "Shadow of the New Deal" is in press in the University of Illinois Press History of Communication series for May, 2023.