Racializing Media Policy

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Table of contents

(6 chapters)

Racialization is an important concept when looking at structural mechanisms that perpetuate racial inequalities. The State, and its various organizational spaces of action, is often seen as a site for race to be enacted. Policy sectors such as housing, education, taxation, and immigration have been ripe areas of research that reflect this. However, media policy research has not effectively engaged with this critical conception. Media policy research has been driven by political economy perspectives within the field of Mass Communication and Media Studies, and can benefit from an approach that analyzes it in relation to social science perspectives that focus on processes which constitute, or are constituted by, actors, groups, and organizations. Our hope is that future researchers will find this volume useful in further developing critical studies of media policy that take into account race as a social force.


This chapter offers an historical overview and analysis of US broadcast regulation. It demonstrates how seemingly race-neutral policies – the interpretation of “public interest,” the preference for incumbents, the application of the First Amendment, and the embrace of colorblindness within US media policy – has functioned to entrench White interests in the broadcasting sector. Drawing on critical policy studies and critical race theory, this chapter illuminates how broadcast regulation has been a technology of White privilege, one that has had substantial consequences for the distribution of both material and symbolic resources as well as for the contours of the public sphere in the United States.


Efforts to make the television landscape more equitable for people of color have been evident both within and outside the industry as early as the 1940s. These advancements made by individuals within broadcasting were an attempt to allow more people of color to get opportunities to prove themselves competent in front of and behind the scenes in broadcast television. While these early attempts were ultimately unsuccessful, they laid the groundwork for future diversity initiative efforts. The purpose of this chapter is to expose the landmark events that introduced changes in diversity policy that eventually resulted from diversity initiatives at NBC despite the racial barriers within its corporate structure. This chapter will show that the trajectory of these early events exhibits that the diversity initiatives seen today resulted from decades of pressure from the government, the press and outside citizen activist groups.


The chapter situates the role of narrative power in shifting media policy amidst calls for police abolition, defunding, and media reparations following the documentation of media harm. Community-based narrative intervention is not only focused on those aspects of reporting and media that deal with harms perpetuated by discourses on public safety, but also about developing what I refer to as “collective narrative self-determination” to reflect the needs and desires of communities. The chapter documents how grassroots media efforts attempt to reconfigure the space of media policy and shift narratives toward the community power needed to reckon with the consequences of vital public resources being systematically defunded for budgets and policies that entail greater police powers. The chapter concludes this is an important moment for community-based initiatives and interventions that can shift media narratives around policing and urban violence and also shift who is served by those narratives, contributing to the long-term process of building narrative power and racial justice across a wide range of community and media organizations.

Cover of Racializing Media Policy
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