Special Section on Media Reform | Defining Democracy: Coalition Politics and the Struggle for Media Reform

Dan Berger


The corporate consolidation of media has sparked a national bipartisan coalition struggling for media reform. This article attempts a critical overview of this phenomenon by analyzing its works and words to date. I argue that media reform has activated large numbers of people around vital but seemingly esoteric issues, and, in the process, has synthesized communication research and action for the democratic control of media policy. But this battle also exposes several potential limitations. In particular, I examine the populist nature of the media reform coalition's attempt to be a "nonpartisan democracy movement." Such an approach assumes an inevitable progressive basis to bipartisan coalition not demonstrated by historical examples. Further, this organizing model prioritizes formal institutional decisions at the expense of what is perhaps the media's greatest power: their ability to shape meaning through content. I conclude by analyzing several alternate models of media activism which join policy with production and forcefully articulate media reform as a vital component of broader struggles for social justice.

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