Reforming the wasteland: television, reform, and social movements, 1950-2004
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This dissertation examines the role of television reform within twentieth century social movements in the United States. Typically, scholars have examined the relationship between activists and television through the lens of media representation: how the mass media have depicted and defined social movements, and how activists have negotiated with the media that publicize their goals. This dissertation, in contrast, examines the role of media reform within social movements themselves. By investigating the television reform campaigns of civil rights activists, feminists, conservatives, the progressive left, and educational groups, this dissertation reveals how American reform movements have responded to an increasingly mass-mediated culture and have tried to mold television to reflect their moral and political beliefs. This dissertation explores not only the myriad ways activists have approached television reform, but illustrates how these campaigns have responded to changes in the television industry, broadcasting policy, and American culture more broadly. This dissertation also charts the rhetorical strategies that the reformers have used to legitimate their stake in media policy and practices and to convince of the importance and power of the medium that they are trying to change. Television reform fights have been battles not only over television programming and policy, but over the meaning of television's role in American society.