Winner of the 2017 Outstanding Book Award from the Popular Communication Division of the International Communication Association
Nearly as soon as television began to enter American homes in the late 1940s, social activists recognized that it was a powerful tool for shaping the nation’s views. By targeting broadcast regulations and laws, both liberal and conservative activist groups have sought to influence what America sees on the small screen. Public Interests describes the impressive battles that these media activists fought and charts how they tried to change the face of American television. Allison Perlman looks behind the scenes to track the strategies employed by several key groups of media reformers, from civil rights organizations like the NAACP to conservative groups like the Parents Television Council. While some of these campaigns were designed to improve the representation of certain marginalized groups in television programming, as Perlman reveals, they all strove for more systemic reforms, from early efforts to create educational channels to more recent attempts to preserve a space for Spanish-language broadcasting. Public Interests fills in a key piece of the history of American social reform movements, revealing pressure groups’ deep investments in influencing both television programming and broadcasting policy. Vividly illustrating the resilience, flexibility, and diversity of media activist campaigns from the 1950s onward, the book offers valuable lessons that can be applied to current battles over the airwaves.
About the Author
ALLISON PERLMAN is an assistant professor in the departments of film and media studies and history at the University of California, Irvine. She is co-editor of Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence.
"Both interesting and informative, Public Interests makes an extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of media activism in the United States." — Heather Hendershot
"Perlman's meticulously researched and well-argued book is an invaluable addition to policy studies, media history, and the literature on social activism ... As the tools, capacities, and concerns of media reformers continue to shift in the digital era, I strongly recommend this history for its careful explication of the past and thoughtful analysis of what we can learn from that history for our present and future." — Mass Communication and Society
"Perlman fills in a longstanding gap in television history with this well-researched account of several generations of dedicated reformers, whose efforts made a difference to the major political movements of the twentieth century and beyond....an important story, convincingly told." — Michele Hilmes
"Allison Perlman has given the elusive construct of 'the public interest' some brilliant contours in this historical tour-de-force of social movements and their transformative relationship with media policy." — Jennifer Holt
"An excellent book that should interest scholars of media history and media studies, US post-war history in general, as well as cultural studies." — Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
"Allison Perlman’s story of media advocacy...offers a bracing antidote to [a] gloomy trajectory." — Journal of American History