Herbert Schiller – Mass Communications and American Empire

Herbert I. Schiller, Mass Communication and American Empire, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1969, 1992 (2nd ed.).

Chap. 1:

“… the emerging imperial network of American economics and finance utilizes the communications media for its defense and entrenchment wherever it exists already and for its expansion to locale where it hopes to become active” (47).

“Diminished European strength, an expanded but defensive Socialist geographical and material base and the newly-independent but economically feeble ‘third’ world provided the environmental setting in which the contemporary expansion of American power occurs” (49).

Marriage of economics and electronics instead of “blood and iron” foundation….

“Recognition that economic might and communications know-how could complement each other to effectively promote the creation of an American century evolved slowly” (49).

Truman’s 1947 speech: freedom – freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of enterprise…. (50).

J. Gallagher and R. Robinson, “free trade imperialism” (51) – “Refusals to annex are no proof of reluctance to control.” The mechanics of informal empire … “was the treaty of free trade and friendship made with or imposed upon a weaker state.” (52)

Free trade – free flow of information (53)

Military force (54)

Cultural operation – Charles Frankel: 1) accidental by-product; 2) triumph of one’s own culture over the culture of others; 3) new era (volume and intensity of the cultural traffic, heavier and penetrate more deeply, more organized social institutions…) (57).

Chap. 2:

“The development of broadcast communication in the United States affords perhaps the most damaging as well as the most recent evidence of how an exciting new possibility for human enlightenment and satisfaction can be transformed into a stultifying spiritual swamp by a web of retrogressive social institutions” (63).

McGeorge Bundy and Dan Lacy…

“The discovery of radio (and later television) came out of inventive minds but the development of these media was determined at all points by the market system which surrounded them. Business balance sheets, intent on profitability and unconcerned with human realization, enveloped broadcast communication” (64).

“In the judgment of the market, radio’s commodity value was first comprehended in units of equipment sold. The possibilities of retailing broadcast time appeared soon after as an even more attractive source of income” (65-6).

From the outset, there was no element in the society capable and sufficiently influential to protect the national and popular interest in the new resource. Instead, corporate complexes struggled for monopolistic control of the broadcasting medium while the public was considered first only as a consumer of equipment and later a saleable audience” (66)

“radio group” – manufacturers (GE, Westinghouse) + RCA    //    AT&T

“Though control of broadcasting was the ultimate aim of both of these corporate grouping, the surge of public interest in radio threw the emphasis temporarily to the production of radio sets and equipment” (67).

“The large radio audience constituted an unsuspecting but willing market for the high capacity industries that had grown up in the country. The needs of manufacturers to dispose of goods were rapidly linked with the desire of set-owners to hear something on their newly-acquired receiver. Commercial broadcasting was the product of those two widely separate interests” (68).

Federal Radio Commission (1927): “advertising must be accepted for the present as the sole means of support of broadcasting….”

“… though the air has always been a natural resource owned by all the people, the practice of granting licenses for station-holding … ‘did in fact treat channels as private property” (69).

“The market economy pushed radio communications first into the hand of the equipment manufacturers and then into the arms of commercial broadcasting” (69).

Intentions to use broadcasting for educational purpose…

“The contributions of the later non-commercial radio stations generally have been limited by compartmentalization into formal educational channels with narrow appeal. Public service broadcasting has been isolated from the bulk of the listening audiences which has long since been conditioned by commercial programming” (70).


“… television practically repeated radio’s developmental pattern” (70).

“Television broadcasting form the beginning was entirely dependent on advertising revenues for its support…. Commercially oriented, television sought mass audiences to attract billings from sponsoring advertisers and to entice new customers as well” (70).

“Communications, which could be a vigorous mechanism of social change, have become instead, a major obstacle to national reconstruction. They have been seized by the commanding interests in the market economy, to promote narrow national and international objectives while simultaneously making alternate paths seem either undesirable or preventing their existence from becoming known” (73).


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