Public Media's Origin as a Strategically Networked Archive, 1949-1953

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Josh Shepperd

Josh Shepperd

Catholic University
Speaker Website
MITH Conference Room
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
12:30 pm

At a moment when public media is facing the threat of elimination from lawmakers, this presentation examines the organizational contributions made by noncommercial media research to U.S. informational history. Taking an institutional approach, this presentation looks at the infrastructural origins of public media in archival distribution practices after WWII.

In 1948 educational broadcasters were already 27 years into the first national media advocacy to create a system of universal access to public education. Due to inconsistent broadcast practices and lack of a profit model, advocates began to aggregate key quality programming from university stations at the University of Illinois under the moniker the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.

The result was the creation of a decentralized “Bicycle Network” built around archival management and distribution. The proto-metadata descriptions developed by the NAEB had the result of both coding and consolidating the characteristics of genres now associated with public broadcasting and cable television. In addition, quantitative audience research into the pedagogical effectiveness of each new genre led to the construction of the first academic Communication departments, beginning in 1948.

Josh Shepperd is Assistant Professor of Media and Communication at Catholic University in Washington D.C. Josh serves as National Director of the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force, a digital humanities consortium of 150 professors and 400 archives, and is Convener of the Public Media Research Project, a collaboration with NPR. In 2017 Josh assumes the role of Sound History Fellow with the LC’s National Recording Preservation Board. His organizing work has been featured by NPR Marketplace, The Atlantic Monthly, Poynter, C-Span, and CBS Radio.

Josh’s book looks at the institutional origins of civic media in work conducted by the media reform movement, Office of Education, FCC, and commercial broadcasters during the New Deal. His research been supported by the Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Archive, CLIR, and the Library of Congress.

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