Faculty Publications

Publication Date

Spring 2007


Broadcast and Video Studies | Mass Communication


The National Federation of Community Broadcasters is the oldest and largest organization of community-oriented, nonprofit radio stations in the United States. Nevertheless, only a handful of scholars have considered the NFCB and its place in the history of mass media in the U.S. In the years leading up to and following the establishment of the NFCB in 1975, the public policy environment that guided the activities noncommercial radio, and all of American mass media, changed dramatically. This study provides a historical account of the NFCB during these formative years, and examines the political, economic, and social forces that propelled the organization during this period. The study examines the conflicts of idealism and realism, intention and action that shaped the NFCB in its first years, and delineates the relationship of the NFCB to the political economy of mass communications media in the U.S. The study explores the role of dissent in the prevailing political economy of communication, and demonstrates how issues of power unfolded in one sector of American broadcasting. The study relies on qualitative and historical methods, employing a combination of document analysis and in-depth interviews to gain a broad understanding of the origins and evolution of the NFCB. The study demonstrates the decisive power and control over the political economy of public broadcasting in the United States held by the U.S. Congress, and the efficacy of the open marketplace for public radio programming envisioned by the founders of the NFCB. The study addresses one of the significant historical controversies in American community radio, finding that contemporary Low Power FM radio services have benefited from the policies advocated by the NFCB in the 1980s. The study concludes that community broadcasters provided the talents, knowledge, skills, and abilities to push public radio in new directions, to become more open to change and more responsive to listeners. In the process, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters moved from the margins to the mainstream of public radio policymaking in the United States.

Document Type



This is the author's doctoral dissertation, which was presented to the School of Journalism and Communication and the Graduate School of the University of Oregon in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


©2007 Michael William Huntsberger
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