Federal Communications Law Journal

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Publication Date


Publication Citation

63 Federal Communications Law Journal 141 (2010)


There has been considerable scholarship exploring the need to breathe deliberative life back into the localism standard by requiring broadcasters to include more meaningful local news and public affairs programming, pursuant to the public interest obligations imposed on radio licensees. There has been little scholarly attention, if any, however given to broadening understandings of localism to include music and popular cultural expression for the purpose of furthering deliberative discourse in particular, rather than solely for entertainment purposes. This Article focuses on a particular moment in radio and America's cultural history that was rife with struggles over constructions of identity, and with contests over meaning between dominant ideological frameworks and voices of subversion that challenged these dominant normative understandings, all within a very commercialized, corporately controlled media environment. Specifically, this Article focuses on the rise of rock and roll on commercial radio and of the White rock and roll disc jockey, who came to represent the pulse of the historically marginalized (pre-World War II), White American youth. By exploring this snapshot in history of radio's subaltern past via the playing of rock and roll by radio disc jockeys on White radio, at a time when the nation's radio air waves, like the larger society, were racially segregated, and during what some have defined as the long progression into America's Cultural Revolution, this Article builds on the scholarship of others that have considered radio's influence on popular culture, discursive democracy, and the struggles over constructions of identity. This Article expands upon such analysis, however, by exploring the law's role, specifically, FCC localism rules and policies in effect at that time, in this contest over meaning and the deliberative process: a role that must be taken into account as the FCC, Congress, and the courts reconsider current media policy in light of the public outcry over the lack of diverse content on the nation's radio airwaves.