Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mass Media in the United States of America

The Simpsons, Fox and the Liberal Media.

Issues for Media in the USA

- Historical background to mass media in the United States
- Censorship of media in the United States
- Ownership and controls
- Citizenship and Grassroots Journalism
- Children’s media in the United States

Mass media in the USA is an enormous network of television, film, radio, print and web broadcasters. The organization Reporters Without Borders compiles and publishes an annual ranking of countries based upon the organization's assessment of their press freedom records. In 2010 USA was ranked 20th of 178th countries, which was an improvement from the preceding year (Sweden is ranked number 1 along with Norway, Finland, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands).

Historical Background to Mass Media in the USA

The First American Newspapers
Britain's American colonies, because of their sparse populations and strict governments, entered the world of the newspaper relatively late. Public Occurrences, Both FORREIGN and DOMESTICK was printed in Boston on September 25, 1690. The first story in this the first newspaper printed in America seems well chosen: "The Christianized Indians in some parts of Plimouth, have newly appointed a day of thanksgiving to God for his Mercy..."

However, if survival was its goal, other items in this paper were less well chosen. Publick Occurrences included an attack on some Indians who had fought with the English against the French and an allusion to a salacious rumor about the king of France. This sort of journalism was typical of the paper's publisher, Benjamin Harris, who had published sensational newspapers in England before he was thrown in jail and then forced to flee to America for printing a particularly incendiary account of a supposed Catholic plot against England. Massachusetts authorities quickly expressed their "high Resentment and Disallowance" of Public Occurrences. The first issue of America's first newspaper was also the last. It would be fourteen years before another newspaper was published in the colonies.

The Boston News-Letter, America's second printed newspaper, grew out of a handwritten newsletter that had been distributed by the town's postmaster, John Campbell. It was a much tamer affair than Harris's paper -- filled primarily with reports on English and European politics taken from London papers. The Boston News-Letter, which first appeared in print in 1704, survived for 72 years. Campbell lost the position of postmaster in 1719, but he refused to give up the newspaper. So, his replacement as postmaster, William Brooker, began printing his own newspaper, the Boston Gazette, on December 21, 1719. A day later, the third successful American newspaper, the American Weekly Mercury, appeared in Philadelphia.

These papers were careful, for the most part, not to offend colonial authorities. The first paper to attempt to give voice to political debate was Boston's third successful newspaper, the New England Courant, which was first printed in 1721 by James Franklin. The Courant was the most literary and readable of the early colonial newspapers, and in its first issue it began a political crusade. The issue was smallpox inoculations, which were first being used in Boston that year used to fight an epidemic. Cotton Mather, one of the most powerful men in Boston, supported inoculation. James Franklin did not. So the first American newspaper crusade was a crusade against smallpox inoculation. The next year, the Courant took on the colonial government, which it accused of failing to do enough to protect the area from pirates. This crusade landed James Franklin in jail.

Later a court decried that "James Franklin be strictly forbidden...to print or publish the New-England Courant...." To evade this order, James Franklin made his younger brother Benjamin, who was apprenticed to him, the paper's official publisher. Ben used the situation to escape from his apprenticeship. Benjamin Franklin took over control of the Pennsylvania Gazette in Philadelphia in 1729, made it into one of the finest papers in the colonies and embarked upon an extraordinary career as a writer, journalist, printer, businessman, postmaster, scientist and statesman.

The Colonial Press

The Maryland Gazette appeared in Annapolis in 1727, the Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg in 1736. By 1765, according to the American journalism historian Frank Luther Mott, all but two of the colonies, Delaware and New Jersey, had weekly newspapers. Boston had four; New York three; and Philadelphia had two newspapers printed in English, one printed in German. There were two newspapers in Connecticut, Rhode Island and each of the Carolinas. These early newspapers were usually no more than four pages long. They were filled primarily with short news items, documents and essays mostly taken from other newspapers, particularly British and European papers.

New York City's first newspaper was the New York Gazette, founded by William Bradford in 1725, but it was the city's second newspaper, John Peter Zenger's New York Weekly Journal, which began printing in 1733, that was to have a major effect on the history of journalism. The New York Gazette was a typical colonial newspaper: It stayed out of trouble by supporting the policies of the colony's governor. But New York's governor at the time, William Cosby, was a particularly controversial figure, who had alienated many of the most respected individuals in the colony. They wanted a newspaper that would express their point of view, and Zenger, a young German-born printer, agreed to start one. Zenger's Weekly Journal immediately began taking on the colony's administration. Governor Cosby had Zenger arrested on November 17, 1734, charged with seditious libel. (While he was in jail, the paper was printed by Zenger's wife, Anna.)

There was no doubt that Zenger had printed articles critical of the governor, and at the printer's trial in August 1775, the judge instructed the jury that, under the common law definition of seditious libel, criticism of the government was no less libelous if true. However, Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, made an impassioned call to defend the "cause of liberty...the liberty both of exposing and opposing arbitrary power...by speaking and writing truth," and the jury ignored the judge's instructions and found Zenger innocent. This case represented a major step in the struggle for the freedom to print honest criticism of government, and it would have the practical effect of discouraging British authorities from prosecuting American journalists, even when their criticisms of the government grew intense in the years leading up to the American Revolution. After the Zenger trial, the British were afraid they would not be able to get an American jury to convict an American journalist.

Newspapers and the American Revolution. The major limitation on press freedom in England in the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century was the stamp tax, which had the effect of raising the price of newspapers to the point where the poorer classes could not afford to buy them. The Stamp Act passed by the British Parliament passed in 1765 would have placed a similar tax on American newspapers. Americans were not represented in this Parliament, and American newspapers rebelled against the new tax. They printed letters and essays protesting the Act -- the "fatal Black-Act," one editor called it; they printed reports on the meetings and mobs that protested the tax. New York's lieutenant governor, Cadwallader Colden, complained that these newspapers employed "every falsehood that malice could invent to serve their purpose of exciting the People to disobedience of the Laws & to Sedition."

The Stamp Act was to take effect on November 1, 1765. As that dreaded day approached, newspapers like the Pennsylvania Journal dressed themselves as tombstones and announced that they were "EXPIRING: In Hopes of a Resurrrection to Life again." Then cautiously, as the date passed without a British crackdown, the newspapers began appearing again, without the stamp; the Maryland Gazette calling itself, "An Apparition of the late Maryland Gazette, which is not Dead but Sleepeth." The Stamp Act could not be enforced and was soon repealed.

Similar protests reverberated through the colonial newspapers when the British Parliament approved the Townshend Acts in 1767, which imposed taxes on American imports of glass, lead, paint, tea and, significantly, paper. "Nonimportation agreements," policed in large part through the press, led the colonies to another victory. In 1770 all the duties except that on tea were removed.

During these successive waves of protest against the British in America, newspapers appeared with woodcuts of divided snakes, to represent the weakness of the colonies if they remained divided, with woodcuts of coffins (designed by Paul Revere) to represent the victims of the Boston Massacre; they published list of those "Enemies to their Country" who continued to import boycotted British goods; they serialized radical essays by John Dickinson and, in 1776, Thomas Paine. They called British officials and their supporters "serpents," "guileful betrayers," diabolical Tools of Tyrants" or "Men totally abondoned to Wickedness." The Boston Tea Party -- a protest against Parliament's decision to allow the East India Company to market its tea directly in American, with a price advantage over local merchants -- was organized in the house of a newspaper editor, Benjamin Edes of the Boston Gazette in 1773. Among the other leading newspapers in this struggle against British policies were Isaiah Thomas's Massachusetts Spy and John Holt's New York Journal. One of these newspapers, the Providence Gazette, was published during some of these crucial years by two women: Sarah and Mary Katherine Goddard.

Not all the colonial newspapers were on the side of the anti-British Sons of Liberty. James Rivington's New York Gazetteer, one of the best edited, most attractive papers in the colonies, gave voice to the Tory, or pro-British, as well as the "Patriot" side in the ongoing conflict, in what he called his "Ever Open and Uninfluenced Press." Despite their professed allegiance to the principle of a free press, the Sons of Liberty were infuriated by Rivington's paper, and he responded by taking more openly Tory positions. A group of members of the Sons of Liberty wrecked Rivington's printing plant, and, after the Revolutionary War began, he was arrested and forced to sign a statement of loyalty to the Continental Congress.

Still, for the most part American newspapers in the years leading up to the American Revolution represented something the world had never before seen: a press committed to challenging, even overthrowing, governmental authorities. This remains an unusual and difficult position for newspapers to take. Unlike pamphlets or broadsides, newspapers must appear regularly. Their publishers cannot hide from authorities, and, as proprietors of an ongoing business, they usually have a stake in the stability of the community and therefore in preserving the power of authorities. This tends to make newspapers conservative forces, more likely to try to unify the members of a community than to try to incite them to anti-authoritarian violence. One explanation for the uncharacteristic role the papers played before the American Revolution is that they were in fact unifying and supporting a community -- a new community that was forming within the British Empire, of Americans. These newspapers were in a sense loyal to the authorities -- the new authorities who had appeared on the continent: the Sons of Liberty. Most historians agree that the American Revolution would not have happened when it did without the efforts of these colonial newspapers.

The Partisan Press

In the unsettled years after the Revolution, American newspapers remained filled with arguments and anger -- now directed not against the British but against their political opponents. Each of the two parties that formed, the Federalists and the Republicans, had their newspapers and these papers had little sympathy for representatives of the other side. For example, this is how The Aurora, a Republican paper published in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin Bache, greeted George Washington's retirement as president in 1796: "The man who is the source of all the misfortune of our country is this day reduced to a level with his fellow-citizens, and is no longer possessed of power to multiply evils upon the United States."

Although it had originally been left out of the Constitution in 1887, freedom of the press was guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Nevertheless, Federalist Party leaders, increasingly uncomfortable with the criticism they were taking from Republican editors and made nervous by the threat of war with France, soon attempted to silence their critics.

In 1798, Congress passed and President John Adams signed the Sedition Act -- probably the most significant threat to press freedom in the history of the United States. The Sedition Act made "any false, scandalous and malicious writing...against the the Government of the United States," the Congress or the president, "with intent to...bring them...into contempt or disrepute" punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Among others, the leading Republican editor in New York, New England and Philadelphia (Bache) were all indicting for violating the Sedition Act or the common-law prohibition against seditious libel, which had been the charge against Zenger. There were at least fifteen convictions.

Thomas Jefferson was elected president in 1800, partly because of resentment over the Sedition Act, and the Act was allowed to lapse. "I have lent myself willingly as the subject of a great experiment," Jefferson wrote in 1807, "...to demonstrate the falsehood of the pretext that freedom of the press is incompatible with orderly government." That was a compelling "pretext" when Jefferson assumed the presidency. Certainly, the United States has upon occasion flagged in its commitment to Jefferson's "great experiment," particularly, but not exclusively, during wartime. Nevertheless, the experiment with a free press has continued, with the press in the United States eventually demonstrating not only a compatibility with the maintenance of "orderly government," but a talent for it.

There were about 200 newspapers in the United States when Jefferson assumed the presidency in 1801. A printing press was pulled across the mountains to print the first newspaper west of the Alleghenies, the Pittsburgh Gazette in 1786. The first daily newspaper in America was the Pennsylvania Evening Post, published by Benjamin Towne, in 1783. It lasted only 17 months, but by 1801 there were about 20 daily newspapers in the country, including six in Philadelphia, five in New York and three in Baltimore. With daily publication, American newspapers were in a better position to cater to the need of merchants for up-to-date information on prices, markets and ship movements. By 1820, more than half of the newspapers in the largest cities had the words "advertiser," "commercial" or "mercantile" in their names. These "mercantile papers" were often published on large, or "blanket," sheets, and they were expensive -- about six cents a copy, more than most of the artisans or mechanics in the cities could afford.

The Penny Press
On the morning of September 3, 1833, a paper printed on four letter-size pages and filled with human-interest stories and short police reports appeared on the streets of New York. Its publisher was a young printer named Benjamin Day, and he sold his paper, the Sun, for one penny. The American newspaper with the highest circulation at that time was New York's Courier and Enquirer, a mercantile paper which sold 4,500 copies a day in a city of 218,000. In 1830, perhaps the most respected newspaper in the world at the time, the Times of London, which was founded in 1785 by John Walter, was selling 10,000 copies of day in a city with a population of two million. However, within two years, Day was selling 15,000 copies a day of his inexpensive, little Sun.

The first cylinder press, invented by a German, Frederick Koenig and improved by Napier in England, was first used in the United States in 1825. An improved version of this press, using two cylinders, was developed by Richard Hoe in New York in 1832. Steam engines had first been used to drive presses at the Times in London in 1814. By 1835 Day was using a steam press to print his rapidly growing New York Sun. These new presses made it possible to push circulations much higher. The old Gutenberg-type printing press could print perhaps 125 newspapers an hour; by 1851 the Sun's presses were printing 18,000 copies an hour.

James Gordon Bennett, one of the most creative forces in the history of journalism, began his own penny paper, the Herald in 1835. Within in two years it was selling 20,000 copies a day, despite a price increase to two cents. A number of penny newspapers had failed in Boston, a couple even before Day started his Sun. That city's first successful penny paper was the Daily Times in 1836. Philadelphia had the Daily Transcript, begun in 1835, and the Public Ledger, in 1836; Baltimore's Sun was first published in 1837 -- all selling for a penny.
(See The History of Newspapers)

Radio in the USA
In 1900, Reginald Fessenden made a weak transmission of voice over the airwaves. Around 1900, Tesla opened the Wardenclyffe Tower facility and advertised services. In 1901, Marconi conducted the first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. In 1903, Wardenclyffe Tower neared completion. Various theories exist on how Tesla intended to achieve the goals of this wireless system (reportedly, a 200 kW system). Tesla claimed that Wardenclyffe, as part of a World System of transmitters, would have allowed secure multichannel transceiving of information, universal navigation, time synchronization, and a global location system.

In 1904, The U.S. Patent Office reversed its decision, awarding Marconi a patent for the invention of radio, possibly influenced by Marconi's financial backers in the States, who included Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie. This also allowed the U.S. government (among others) to avoid having to pay the royalties that were being claimed by Tesla for use of his patents. For more information see Marconi's radio work. In 1907, Marconi established the first commercial transatlantic radio communications service, between Clifden, Ireland and Glace Bay, Newfoundland.

The question of the 'first' publicly-targeted licensed radio station in the U.S. has more than one answer and depends on semantics. Settlement of this 'first' question may hang largely upon what constitutes 'regular' programming.

* It is commonly attributed to KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which in October 1920 received its license and went on the air as the first US licensed commercial broadcasting station. (Their engineer Frank Conrad had been broadcasting from his own station since 1916.) Technically, KDKA was the first of several already-extant stations to receive a 'limited commercial' license.
* On February 17, 1919, station 9XM at the University of Wisconsin in Madison broadcast human speech to the public at large. 9XM was first experimentally licensed in 1914, began regular Morse code transmissions in 1916, and its first music broadcast in 1917. Regularly scheduled broadcasts of voice and music began in January 1921. That station is still on the air today as WHA.
* On August 20, 1920, at least two months before KDKA, E.W. Scripps's WBL (now WWJ) in Detroit started broadcasting. It has carried a regular schedule of programming to the present.
* There is the history noted above of Charles David Herrold's radio services (eventually KCBS) going back to 1909.

Broadcasting was not yet supported by advertising or listener sponsorship. The stations owned by manufacturers and department stores were established to sell radios and those owned by newspapers to sell newspapers and express the opinions of the owners. In the 1920s, radio was first used to transmit pictures visible as television. During the early 1930s, single sideband (SSB) and frequency modulation (FM) were invented by amateur radio operators. By 1940, they were established commercial modes.

Westinghouse was brought into the patent allies group, General Electric, American Telephone and Telegraph, and Radio Corporation of America, and became a part owner of RCA. All radios made by GE and Westinghouse were sold under the RCA label 60% GE and 40% Westinghouse. ATT's Western Electric would build radio transmitters. The patent allies attempted to set up a monopoly, but they failed due to successful competition. Much to the dismay of the patent allies, several of the contracts for inventor's patents held clauses protecting "amateurs" and allowing them to use the patents. Whether the competing manufacturers were really amateurs was ignored by these competitors.

These features arose:

* Commercial (United States) or governmental (Europe) station networks
* Federal Radio Commission
* Federal Communications Commission
* Birth of the soap opera
* Race towards shorter waves and FM

The beginning of regular commercially licensed sound broadcasting in the United States in 1920 ended the print monopoly over the media and opened the doors to the more immediate and pervasive electronic media. By 1928, the United States had three national radio networks – two owned by NBC (the National Broadcasting Company), and one by CBS (the Columbia Broadcasting System). Until 1943, there were four major national radio networks: two owned by NBC, one owned by CBS, and one owned by Mutual Broadcasting System. The NBC's second network became ABC, the American Broadcasting Company.

Though mostly listened to for entertainment, radio's instant, on-the-spot reports of dramatic events drew huge audiences throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the potential of radio to reach the American public, and during his four terms (1933–45), his radio "fireside chats" informed the nation on the progress of policies to counter the Depression and on developments during World War II.

After World War II, television's visual images replaced the audio-only limitation of radio as the predominant entertainment and news vehicle. Radio adapted to the new situation by replacing entertainment programs with schedules of music interspersed with news and features, a freeform format adopted by NBC when it launched its popular weekend-long Monitor in 1955. During the 1950s, automobile manufacturers began offering car radios as standard accessories, and radio received a big boost as Americans tuned in their car radios as they drove to and from work.

The first regularly scheduled television service in the United States began on July 2, 1928. The Federal Radio Commission authorized C.F. Jenkins to broadcast from experimental station W3XK in Wheaton, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. For at least the first eighteen months, 48-line silhouette images from motion picture film were broadcast, although beginning in the summer of 1929 he occasionally broadcast in halftones.

Hugo Gernsback's New York City radio station began a regular, if limited, schedule of live television broadcasts on August 14, 1928, using 48-line images. Working with only one transmitter, the station alternated radio broadcasts with silent television images of the station's call sign, faces in motion, and wind-up toys in motion. Speaking later that month, Gernsback downplayed the broadcasts, intended for amateur experimenters. "In six months we may have television for the public, but so far we have not got it." Gernsback also published Television, the world's first magazine about the medium.

General Electric's experimental station in Schenectady, New York, on the air sporadically since January 13, 1928, was able to broadcast reflected-light, 48-line images via shortwave as far as Los Angeles, and by September was making four television broadcasts weekly. It is considered to be the direct predecessor of current television station WRGB. The Queen's Messenger, a one-act play broadcast on September 11, 1928, was the world's first live drama on television.

Radio giant RCA began daily experimental television broadcasts in New York City in March 1929 over station W2XBS. The 60-line transmissions consisted of pictures, signs, and views of persons and objects.[80] Experimental broadcasts continued to 1931.

General Broadcasting System's WGBS radio and W2XCR television aired their regular broadcasting debut in New York City on April 26, 1931, with a special demonstration set up in Aeolian Hall at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-fourth Street. Thousands waited to catch a glimpse of the Broadway stars who appeared on the six-inch (15 cm) square image, in an evening event to publicize a weekday programming schedule offering films and live entertainers during the four-hour daily broadcasts. Appearing were boxer Primo Carnera, actors Gertrude Lawrence, Louis Calhern, Frances Upton and Lionel Atwill, WHN announcer Nils Granlund, the Forman Sisters, and a host of others.

CBS's New York City station W2XAB began broadcasting their first regular seven days a week television schedule on July 21, 1931, with a 60-line electromechanical system. The first broadcast included Mayor Jimmy Walker, the Boswell Sisters, Kate Smith, and George Gershwin. The service ended in February 1933. Don Lee Broadcasting's station W6XAO in Los Angeles went on the air in December 1931. Using the UHF spectrum, it broadcast a regular schedule of filmed images every day except Sundays and holidays for several years.

By 1935, low-definition electromechanical television broadcasting had ceased in the United States except for a handful of stations run by public universities that continued to 1939. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) saw television in the continual flux of development with no consistent technical standards, hence all such stations in the U.S. were granted only experimental and not commercial licenses, hampering television's economic development. Just as importantly, Philo Farnsworth's August 1934 demonstration of an all-electronic system at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia pointed out the direction of television's future.

On June 15, 1936, Don Lee Broadcasting began a one month-long demonstration of high definition (240+ line) television in Los Angeles on W6XAO (later KTSL) with a 300-line image from motion picture film. By October, W6XAO was making daily television broadcasts of films. RCA and its subsidiary NBC demonstrated in New York City a 343-line electronic television broadcast, with live and film segments, to its licensees on July 7, 1936, and made its first public demonstration to the press on November 6. Irregularly scheduled broadcasts continued through 1937 and 1938.[85] Regularly scheduled electronic broadcasts began in April 1938 in New York (to the second week of June, and resuming in August) and Los Angeles. NBC officially began regularly scheduled television broadcasts in New York on April 30, 1939 with a broadcast of the opening of the 1939 New York World's Fair. By June 1939, regularly scheduled 441-line electronic television broadcasts were available in New York City and Los Angeles, and by November on General Electric's station in Schenectady. From May through December 1939, the New York City NBC station (W2XBS) of General Electric broadcast twenty to fifty-eight hours of programming per month, Wednesday through Sunday of each week. The programming was 33% news, 29% drama, and 17% educational programming, with an estimated 2,000 receiving sets by the end of the year, and an estimated audience of five to eight thousand. A remote truck could cover outdoor events from up to 10 miles (16 km) away from the transmitter, which was located atop the Empire State Building. Coaxial cable was used to cover events at Madison Square Garden. The coverage area for reliable reception was a radius of 40 to 50 miles (80 km) from the Empire State Building, an area populated by more than 10,000,000 people (Lohr, 1940).

The FCC adopted NTSC television engineering standards on May 2, 1941, calling for 525 lines of vertical resolution, 30 frames per second with interlaced scanning, 60 fields per second, and sound carried by frequency modulation. Sets sold since 1939 which were built for slightly lower resolution could still be adjusted to receive the new standard. (Dunlap, p31). The FCC saw television ready for commercial licensing, and the first such licenses were issued to NBC and CBS owned stations in New York on July 1, 1941, followed by Philco's station WPTZ in Philadelphia. After the U.S. entry into World War II, the FCC reduced the required minimum air time for commercial television stations from 15 hours per week to 4 hours. Most TV stations suspended broadcasting. On the few that remained, programs included entertainment such as boxing and plays, events at Madison Square Garden, and illustrated war news as well as training for air raid wardens and first aid providers. In 1942, there were 5,000 sets in operation, but production of new TVs, radios, and other broadcasting equipment for civilian purposes was suspended from April 1942 to August 1945 (Dunlap).

Regular network television broadcasts began on the DuMont Television Network in 1946, on NBC in 1947, and on CBS and ABC in 1948. By 1949, the networks stretched from New York to the Mississippi River, and by 1951 to the West Coast. Commercial color television broadcasts began on CBS in 1951 with a field-sequential color system that was suspended four months later for technical and economic reasons. The television industry's National Television System Committee developed a color television system that was compatible with existing black and white receivers, and commercial color broadcasts reappeared in 1953.
(The History of Television in the United States)

Ownership and Controls of Media in the United States

The Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute (see 47 U.S.C. § 151 and 47 U.S.C. § 154), and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the media, public safety and homeland security, and modernizing the FCC.

As specified in section one of the Communications Act as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (amendment to 47 U.S.C. §151) it is the FCC's mission to "make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges."[sic] The Act furthermore provides that the FCC was created "for the purpose of the national defense" and "for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications." Consistent with the objectives of the Act as well as the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), the FCC has identified six goals in its 2006-2011 Strategic Plan. These are:

* Broadband: "All Americans should have affordable access to robust and reliable broadband products and services. Regulatory policies must promote technological neutrality, competition, investment, and innovation to ensure that broadband service providers have sufficient incentives to develop and offer such products and services."
* Competition: "Competition in the provision of communication services, both domestically and overseas, supports the Nation's economy. The competitive framework for communications services should foster innovation and offer consumers reliable, meaningful choice in affordable services."
* Spectrum: "Efficient and effective use of non-federal spectrum domestically and internationally promotes the growth and rapid development of innovative and efficient communication technologies and services."
* Media: "The Nation's media regulations must promote competition and diversity and facilitate the transition to digital modes of delivery."
* Public Safety and Homeland Security: "Communications during emergencies and crisis must be available for public safety, health, defence, and emergency personnel, as well as all consumers in need. The Nation's critical communications infrastructure must be reliable, interoperable, redundant, and rapidly restorable."
* Modernize the FCC: "The Commission shall strive to be highly productive, adaptive, and innovative organization that maximises the benefits to stakeholders, staff, and management from effective systems, processes, resources, and organizational culture."

The FCC is directed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for 5-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term. The President designates one of the Commissioners to serve as Chairperson. Only three Commissioners may be members of the same political party. None of them can have a financial interest in any Commission-related business.

Censorship and Freedom of Speech in the United States
In general, freedom of speech is considered an integral American value, as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This freedom has caused controversy at times. For instance, it is legal to express certain forms of hate speech so long as one does not engage in the acts being described or urge others to commit illegal acts. However, more severe and hurtful forms of hate speech have led to people or groups, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, being successfully sued.

The Sedition Act of 1917, passed in connection with the United States joining the Allied Powers in the First World War, was a controversial law that led to imprisonment of many prominent individuals for opposing the war or the draft. State laws prohibiting "sedition" were also passed and used to prosecute and persecute alleged "seditionists" during this period, including many people guilty only of being members of the Wobblies. However, the Sedition Act expired shortly after the end of the First World War; the state sedition acts, if in place, are undoubtedly unconstitutional under the Brandenburg doctrine of imminent lawless action as well as the former doctrine of clear and present danger.

McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-Communist suspicion in the United States that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s.

The Alien Registration Act or Smith Act of 1940 made it a criminal offense for anyone to "knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise or teach the […] desirability or propriety of overthrowing the Government of the United States or of any State by force or violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or to affiliate with any such association". Hundreds of Communists were prosecuted under this law between 1941 and 1957. Eleven leaders of the Communist Party were charged and convicted under the Smith Act in 1949. Ten defendants were given sentences of five years and the eleventh was sentenced to three years. All of the defense attorneys were cited for contempt of court and were also given prison sentences. In 1951, twenty-three other leaders of the party were indicted including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, who was removed from the board of the ACLU in 1940 for membership in a totalitarian political party. By 1957 over 140 leaders and members of the Communist Party had been charged under the law.

In 1952, the Immigration and Nationality, or McCarran-Walter, Act was passed. This law allowed the government to deport immigrants or naturalized citizens engaged in subversive activities and also to bar suspected subversives from entering the country.

The Communist Control Act of 1954 was passed with overwhelming support in both houses of Congress after very little debate. Jointly drafted by Republican John Marshall Butler and Democrat Hubert Humphrey, the law was an extension of the Internal Security Act of 1950, and sought to outlaw the Communist Party by declaring that the party, as well as "Communist-Infiltrated Organizations" were "not entitled to any of the rights, privileges, and immunities attendant upon legal bodies."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates "indecent" free-to-air broadcasting (both television and radio). Satellite, cable television, and Internet outlets are not subject to content-based FCC regulation. It can issue fines if, for example, the broadcaster employs certain profane words. The Supreme Court in 1978 in F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation upheld the commission’s determination that George Carlin’s classic “seven dirty words” monologue, with its deliberate, repetitive and creative use of vulgarities, was indecent. But the court at that time left open the question of whether the use of “an occasional expletive” could be punished. Radio personality Howard Stern has been a frequent target of fines. This led to his leaving broadcast radio and signing on with Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006. The Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy increased the political pressure on the FCC to vigorously police the airwaves. In addition, Congress increased the maximum fine the FCC may levy from US $268,500 to US $375,000 per incident.

(See Censorship in the USA)


The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), originally the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), is a United States non-profit business and trade association designed to advance the business interests of movie studios. The MPAA administers the voluntary but dominant MPAA film rating system.

MPAA ratings carry no force of local, state, or federal law anywhere in the United States. They only serve as a consumer suggestion by a group of corporate analysts. After screening films, their personal opinions are used to arrive at one of five ratings. Theater owners agree to enforce corporate film ratings as determined by the MPAA, which in turn facilitates their access to new film releases.

The primary MPAA ratings are G (general), PG (parental guidance suggested), PG-13 (parental guidance suggested under the age of 13), R (not suitable for children under 17/restricted), and NC-17 (children 17 and under are not admitted).

As part of its campaign to curb copyright infringement, the MPAA fights against sharing copyrighted works via peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The MPAA's anti-piracy campaign has gained much publicity and criticism.

Citizenship Journalism
Citizen journalism (also known as "public", "participatory", "democratic", "guerrilla" or "street journalism") is the concept of members of the public "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," according to the seminal 2003 report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information. Authors Bowman and Willis say: "The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires."

Citizen journalism should not be confused with community journalism or civic journalism, which are practiced by professional journalists, or collaborative journalism, which is practiced by professional and non-professional journalists working together. Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated content.

Mark Glaser, a freelance journalist who frequently writes on new media issues, said in 2006:

The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube.
In What is Participatory Journalism?, J. D. Lasica classifies media for citizen journalism into the following types:
1. Audience participation (such as user comments attached to news stories, personal blogs, photos or video footage captured from personal mobile cameras, or local news written by residents of a community)
2. Independent news and information Websites (Consumer Reports, the Drudge Report)
3. Full-fledged participatory news sites (NowPublic, Third Report, OhmyNews, DigitalJournal.com, GroundReport)
4. Collaborative and contributory media sites (Slashdot, Kuro5hin, Newsvine)
5. Other kinds of "thin media." (mailing lists, email newsletters)
6. Personal broadcasting sites (video broadcast sites such as KenRadio).
New media theorist Terry Flew states that there are 3 elements "critical to the rise of citizen journalism and citizen media": open publishing, collaborative editing and distributed content. From this perspective, Wikipedia itself is the largest and most successful citizen journalism project, with news often breaking through Wikipedia editors, and stories being maintained as new facts emerge.

In 1999, activists in Seattle created a response to the WTO meeting being held there. These activists understood the only way they could get into the corporate media was by blocking the streets. And then, the scant 60 seconds of coverage would show them being carted off by the police, but without any context to explain why they were protesting. They knew they had to create an alternative media model. Since then, the Indymedia movement has experienced exponential growth, and IMCs have been created in over 200 cities all over the world.

This is What Democracy Looks Like (2000)
A filmed account of the street protests against the World Trade Organization Summit in Seattle, Washington, USA in 1999.

Simultaneously, journalism that was "by the people" began to flourish, enabled in part by emerging internet and networking technologies, such as weblogs, chat rooms, message boards, wikis and mobile computing. A relatively new development is the use of convergent polls, allowing editorials and opinions to be submitted and voted on. Overtime, the poll converges on the most broadly accepted editorials and opinions. In South Korea, OhmyNews became popular and commercially successful with the motto, "Every Citizen is a Reporter." Founded by Oh Yeon-ho on February 22, 2000, it has a staff of some 40-plus traditional reporters and editors who write about 20% of its content, with the rest coming from other freelance contributors who are mostly ordinary citizens. OhmyNews now has an estimated 50,000 contributors, and has been credited with transforming South Korea's conservative political environment.

In 2001, ThemeParkInsider.com became the first online publication to win a major journalism award for a feature that was reported and written entirely by readers, earning an Online Journalism Award from the Online News Association and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism for its "Accident Watch" section, where readers tracked injury accidents at theme parks and shared accident prevention tips.

Children's Media in the United States
A lot of attention is paid to the consumption of media by young children in the USA. PBS has a website that presents research and discussions on the topic. Much of the research is quantitative:

The average American child, aged 2-17, watches 25 hours of TV per week, plays 1 hr per day of video or computer games, and spends an additional 36 min per day on the internet. 19% of children watch more than 35 hrs per week of TV. This in the face of research that shows TV watching beyond 10 hours per week decreases scholastic performance. Comstock and Scharrer, Media and the American Child

How old is too young for children to own mobile phones?

Internet use is another area of debate in the United States. What should be considered is that 41% of children under the age of 18 do not have access at all to the Internet.

Scale: 21% - 57%

United States 41%
Alabama 51% Barchart image
Alaska 29% Barchart image
Arizona 50% Barchart image
Arkansas 56% Barchart image
California 45% Barchart image
Colorado 35% Barchart image
Connecticut 30% Barchart image
Delaware 35% Barchart image
Florida 39% Barchart image
Georgia 48% Barchart image
Hawaii 37% Barchart image
Idaho 41% Barchart image
Illinois 44% Barchart image
Indiana 40% Barchart image
Iowa 37% Barchart image
Kansas 33% Barchart image
Kentucky 40% Barchart image
Louisiana 53% Barchart image
Maine 32% Barchart image
Maryland 33% Barchart image
Massachusetts 32% Barchart image
Michigan 38% Barchart image
Minnesota 31% Barchart image
Mississippi 57% Barchart image
Missouri 38% Barchart image
Montana 45% Barchart image
Nebraska 39% Barchart image
Nevada 44% Barchart image
New Hampshire 21% Barchart image
New Jersey 30% Barchart image
New Mexico 56% Barchart image
New York 40% Barchart image
North Carolina 44% Barchart image
North Dakota 35% Barchart image
Ohio 38% Barchart image
Oklahoma 43% Barchart image
Oregon 36% Barchart image
Pennsylvania 33% Barchart image
Rhode Island 32% Barchart image
South Carolina 49% Barchart image
South Dakota 40% Barchart image
Tennessee 45% Barchart image
Texas 50% Barchart image
Utah 34% Barchart image
Vermont 32% Barchart image
Virginia 35% Barchart image
Washington 33% Barchart image
West Virginia 42% Barchart image
Wisconsin 37% Barchart image
Wyoming 36% Barchart image
District of Columbia 59%
Puerto Rico N.A.
Virgin Islands N.A.

Definitions: The share of children under age 18 who live in households where there was no Internet access available at the time of the survey. This measure indicates how many children have access to the Internet at home-as opposed to a measure indicating how many children have regular access to the Internet. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report, "Home Computer and Internet Use in the United States: August 2000," school was the most common place for children to access the Internet.

Data Source: The Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville and the Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (October 1997, December 1998, August 2000, September 2001 and October 2003 supplements). The value for 1997-1998 is an average of data from October 1997 and December 1998. The value for 2000 is a three year average of data from December 1998, August 2000, and September 2001. The value is labeled as a 2000 estimate because 2000 is the midpoint of the 3-year period. The value for 2001 is a three year average of data from August 2000, September 2001 and October 2003. The value is labeled as a 2001 estimate because 2001 is the midpoint of the 3-year period. More...

Footnotes: Updated December 2006.

Note: The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not included in maps and rankings because they are not states and therefore comparisons on many indicators of child well being are not meaningful.

Sixty-two million U.S. households, or 55 percent of American homes, had a Web-connected computer in 2003, according to 2006 U.S. Census data. That’s up from 50 percent in 2001, and more than triple 1997′s 18 percent figure.

Home Web use continues to skew toward more affluent, younger and educated demographics. Both computer ownership and Web use are lower in households comprised of seniors, among blacks and Hispanics and among households comprised of people with less than a high school education.

Conversely, nearly all households earning over $100,000 — 95 percent — own at least one computer, and 92 percent are online. In homes earning under $40,000, the online figure plummets to 41 percent.

Children have benefited enormously from the growth of home computing. In 1993, only 32 percent of children had access to a computer at home. In 2003, 76 percent of school aged children had access to a home computer, and 83 percent of America’s 57 million schoolchildren used a PC at school. Again, these figures skew when ethnic and economic criteria are applied.

In 1997, only 7 percent of adults said they used the Web to get news, weather and spots. That figure spiked to 40 percent in 2003. Those seeking government or health information grew to 33 percent from 12 percent in 1997, and over half (55 percent) used the Web for e-mail and instant messaging, up from 12 percent 10 years earlier. Eighteen percent banked online; 12 percent looked for a job; nearly half sought product and/or service information and 32 percent purchased online, a radical jump over 2.1 percent in 1993.

Of the 45 percent of households without Web access in 2003, the most common reasons given were: “don’t need it/not interested (39 percent); and costs too much” or “no computer/computer inadequate” (each 23 percent). Two percent cited Web access elsewhere. Issues of privacy, child safety and security concerns were rarely cited, each accounting for only one percent of the reasons.

Homes in the West are the most wired at 67 percent, closely followed by the Northeast and Midwest. Southern households had the lowest percentage of online computers at 52 percent. (US Census on Internet Access and Computing)

Discussion on Mass Media in the United States

Shift Happens

Swedish media has a long tradition going back to the 1776 law enacting freedom of the press. In recent years this freedom has been marred by accusation of systematic media bias when reporting issues of political interest.

The press is subsidized by the government and is owned by many actors, the dominant owner being Bonnier AB. Swedish TV and Radio was until the mid 1980s a government monopoly, which slowly has been eroded despite resistance, e.g. a call for prohibition of private ownership of satellite dish receivers.

Public service media is financed by a special fee (tax) levied on all who own a TV or Radio receiver. Reporting ownership is voluntary, but TV sellers are obliged to report purchase to the government, and the government also has a special service of agents, with equipment capable of detecting tell-tale emissions from TV-receivers, who patrols residential areas in order to catch those who have not reported ownership of a receiver.

Swedish media has mechanisms for self regulation, such as the Swedish Press Council.
(See Media in Sweden)

Media, Political Power and Public Opinion in the USA
In a representative democracy, citizens' preferences are supposed to guide policymakers. Yet the American people are amazingly diverse, which means that there are many groups with many opinions rather than a single public opinion. And most citizens know very little about politics. This chapter focuses on the nature of these "public opinions," how citizens learn about politics, and the extent to which these opinions are conveyed to government officials through various types of political participation.


One way of looking at the American public is through demography: the science of human populations. The most valuable tool for understanding demographic changes in America is the census.

With its long history of immigration, the United States has often been called a melting pot; but policymakers now speak of a new minority majority because it is estimated that all the minority groups combined should pass the fifty percent mark by the year 2060. The largest component of the minority majority currently is the African American population. A legacy of racism and discrimination has left the African American population economically and politically disadvantaged, but African Americans have recently been exercising a good deal of political power. If current immigration and birth rates continue, the Hispanic population will outnumber the black population early in the twenty-first century. Hispanics are rapidly gaining power in the Southwest. The problem of what to do about illegal immigration is of particular concern to the Hispanic community. The recent influx of Asians has been headed by a new class of professional workers. Asian Americans are the most highly skilled immigrant group in American history, and they are the best off of America's minority groups. Native Americans are by far the worst off of America's minority groups. Statistics show that they are the least healthy, the poorest, and the least educated group. Most remain economically and politically disadvantaged.

Americans live in an increasingly multicultural and multilingual society. Yet, regardless of ethnic background most Americans share a common political culture - an overall set of values widely shared within a society. Over the last sixty years, much of America's population growth has been centered in the West and South, particularly with movement to the states of Florida, California, and Texas from states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. This demographic change is associated with political change, as the process of reapportionment brings with it gains or losses of congressional representation as the states' population balance changes. The fastest growing age group in America is composed of citizens over age 65. The new political interests of the elderly have been mobilized under the umbrella of "gray power."


Richard Dawson notes that political socialization is "the process through which an individual acquires his or her own political orientations." Agents of socialization are numerous, including the family, the media, and schools. Only a small portion of Americans' political learning is formal; informal learning is much more important.

Politics is a lifelong activity, and political behavior is to some degree learned behavior. The family's role is central because of its monopoly on time and emotional commitment in the early years. Although most students like to think of themselves as independent thinkers, one can accurately predict how the majority of young people will vote simply by knowing the political leanings of their parents.

The mass media has been referred to as "the new parent." Television now displaces parents as the chief source of information as children get older. Governments throughout the world use the schools in their attempt to instill a commitment to the basic values of the system. Both democratic and authoritarian governments want students to learn positive features about their political system because it helps ensure that youth will grow up to be supportive citizens. Governments largely aim their socialization efforts at the young because one's political orientations grow firmer as one becomes more socialized with age.

(See Government in America, Twelfth Edition)

The media is an intricate part of American government, intertwined with the practice of democracy, but to what extent does the media influence public opinion? To answer that several aspects of media coverage have to be explored. The media is America’s basic resource for all the news concerning American politics. Also, the opinion expressed by the press influences the opinion adopted by the public. Lastly the issues the media deem important help set the national agenda and to affect the publics opinion of voting. The most basic way the media influences public opinion is by offering knowledge about government decisions and access to government information.
Media Affecting Public Opinion
C-SPAN is a private, non-profit company, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service. Our mission is to provide public access to the United States' political process. C-SPAN receives no government funding; operations are funded by fees paid by cable and satellite affiliates who carry C-SPAN programming.

Two examples of American public opinion

(This poll was conducted November 18-21, 2004.)
God created humans in present form
All Americans
Kerry voters
Bush voters

Humans evolved, God guided the process
All Americans
Kerry voters
Bush voters

Humans evolved, God did not guide process
All Americans
Kerry voters
Bush voters

Overall, about two-thirds of Americans want creationism taught along with evolution. Only 37 percent want evolutionism replaced outright. (CBS News Poll)

As well recent polls are showing that Arizona's police-state immigration law is broadly popular with the public.

The May 2010 results:


Implications for Education of Media Consumption in the United States

Stupid in America (abc TV)

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