Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Communication Policy and Public Interests: Media Diversity in Public and Commercial Broadcast Television in the U.S.

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

John Makay (Advisor)


Promoting media diversity in a society is imperative for the social benefits that allow citizens to make informed decisions through exposure to a broad range of viewpoints. In spite of its significance, two major hindrances to media diversity identified so far are conceptual disagreement, that renders divergent approaches to the diversity analysis, and market forces, in which media are centered on a profit seeking mechanism. Responding to these two major issues of media diversity, the study explored the policy effectiveness within the notion of the First Amendment conflict and assessed diversity in both the public and commercial broadcast television industries. This study proposed the integrated theory of diversity, which could identify multiindicators of the dimension of the diversity, such as source, content, and audience diversity; thus, it allowed assessment of the multi-levels within political and economic contexts. The application of the public sphere model helped establish public interest criteria and thus could provide more consistent policy goals in promoting media diversity. The structural conduct model allowed assessment of source diversity by identifying the relationship among the market structure of the broadcast television industry, product strategies, and diversity. The application of the public policy model and the program choice model allowed measurement of content diversity distinctively produced by both public and commercial broadcast television by identifying different programming The analyses of the study provided three major substantial findings: 1) Conceptual disagreement of media diversity and ineffectiveness of the policies on media diversity largely stemmed from the FCC’s inconsistency in establishing public interest criteria strategies. This inconsistency hindered justification of any regulatory intervention to protect public interest and to effectively respond to market failure in terms of media diversity. 2) The diversity offered by public and commercial broadcast televisions was different in terms of programming strategies, types of programs produced, and both number of channels and diversity level offered. The critical variables influencing the diversity were a moral obligation to serve the public interest in public television and the economics of programming in commercial broadcast television. 3) The expressive function of media diversity, reflecting audience demand on media content, is problematic because it basically obeys a majoritarian rule that satisfies the immediate gratification of as many audiences as possible, and audience gratification in accessing ideas is rarely balanced, nor is it on the basis of rational demands.