Part I. Public Television in a Time of Technological Change and Socioeconomic Turmoil: The Cases of France and the U.S.| Looking Back: The Theory, The Promise and the Contradictions

Hélène C. Palmeri, Willard D. Rowland, Jr.


This two-part article compares the different histories of public broadcasting in France and the United States in the context of their different national sociopolitical cultures. It reviews the contemporary conditions facing public broadcasting in the two countries and examines what the common and different elements reveal about the future of public media. Against the backdrop of serious threats to both traditional media and public service systems, the paper inquires into the sustainability of the two models. Part I relates how public broadcasting came into being in each country—with what missions, funding, and structures, and with which built-in contradictions. Part II examines how current changes in technology, social uses of media, and broader policy deliberations are affecting public broadcasting’s goals, as well as how the current challenges and opportunities they establish are being met. The papers find that historical patterns of national policy and public broadcasting organization and funding have persisted and have systematically run counter to important elements of the core public media missions and have thereby inhibited the prospects for real reform and full realization of the public service ideal in both nations.

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