Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Hayes, Joy Elizabeth

First Committee Member

Peters, John

Second Committee Member

McLeod, Kembrew

Third Committee Member

Havens, Timothy

Fourth Committee Member

Berry, Venise


While localism is a particularly important aspect of Congress' mandate that broadcasters serve "the public interest, convenience or necessity," the history of US radio broadcasting exhibits persistent tensions between nationalism and localism, which have intensified in recent decades. Current concerns about the loss of localism in US radio broadcasting invite us to reinterpret US radio history from a local perspective. This dissertation traces the tensions between localism and nationalism in US radio broadcasting through four forms of radio broadcasting constructed specifically to serve localism and the public interest: the 10-watt Class D license, full power public radio as typified by National Public Radio, the Low Power FM (LPFM) license established in 2000, and the controversial use of low power radio by religious broadcasters.

The Class D license, US public radio, and LPFM all originated with the stated objective of serving the public in meaningful ways which commercial broadcasting cannot. Yet to date, each of these has failed to meet this goal, whether due to legislative action, organizational failure or conflict amongst broadcast entities. Further, each of these case studies illustrates the conflict between nationalism and localism ever-present in efforts to establish radio broadcasting services that adequately and meaningfully serve local publics. Through a critical-historical analysis of the tensions between nationalism and localism in US radio broadcasting, this dissertation offers an understanding for the reasons and implications of the continued failure of radio's ability to serve local communities in the United States. In doing so, I look to the failures of the past to suggest how we may revise the current LPFM license to effectively serve local publics.


broadcast regulation, community media, FCC, LPFM, media history, radio


vi, 300 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 267-300).


Copyright 2009 Zack Stiegler

Included in

Communication Commons