Welcome to the Rethinking Schools Archives and Website

Become a subscriber or online account holder to read this article and hundreds more. Learn more.
Already a subscriber or account holder? Log in here.

Preview of Article:

Educators and the Fight for Public Media

Educators          and the Fight for Public Media

For five years, the National Committee campaigned against turning the airwaves over to private control. Morgan declared, "There has never been in the entire history of the United States an example of mismanagement and lack of vision so colossal and far-reaching in its consequences as our turning the radio channels almost exclusively into commercial hands." The Committee had no faith in the ability of broadcasters to make good on their public service promises. It sought "the complete overthrow of the present system."

At the same time, the Carnegie Corporation formed the more mainstream National Advisory Council. Its aim was to work with broadcasters to help develop educational and public service programs without challenging private ownership or commercialization. The Council included university presidents and prominent civic officials like Elihu Root and Charles Evans Hughes. While the National Committee attacked broadcast interests for their greed, relations between Advisory Council and the broadcasters were mutually supportive and outwardly cordial. Privately, Council officials complained about the "inane advertising" and poor quality of programming, but they insisted that "the American system is a commercial one" and there could be no serious talk of an alternative.

Interestingly, both groups failed for different reasons. The National Commit-tee proved unable to organize effectively in coalition with other potential allies such as labor unions or religious groups opposed to the status quo. Its lobbying strategies and reform proposals were also vacillating and confused. Rivalry with the Advisory Council played a role in weakening the prospects for a unified campaign for a strong public role in broadcasting along the lines of the powerful BBC in Britain.

The Advisory Council, despite its conciliatory approach, was repeatedly frustrated in its efforts to get broadcasters to make good on their public service promises. Within months after passage of the Communications Act of 1934, the industry started to distance itself from the Council and urged the Carnegie Corporation to pull the plug, which it did in 1937. As McChesney writes, "Al-though the NACRE failed as miserably as the NCER at accomplishing its goal, it did leave a legacy of doing yeoman's service for the commercial broadcasters when the industry needed such an agency for publication relations purposes."

Today, this episode resonates across the decades for teachers, who still find themselves struggling with public versus private interests in key areas of education policy, rival organizational agendas, and powerful corporate strategies aimed at penetrating previously noncommercial areas.

To Read the Rest of This Article:

Become a subscriber or online account holder to read this article and hundreds more. Learn more.
Already a subscriber or account holder? Log in here.