History of Television & Radio
Essay 1 – 40 points
Answer the following prompt with an essay that’s about 600-900 words (~2–3 double-spaced pages):
In the first class, one theme of the course is that television and radio could have turned out differently than they did. For example, television may never have been in black and white and audiences would have always had more than 3 channels to choose from, if the FCC did not choose to assign channels to the VHF band after World War Two. Think about television in the past and in 2022.
What were some of the other specific, key decisions or shifts that have contributed to what television was and is?
Who was involved in these shifts, and why?
How might television have been different if different decisions were made at key points?
Consider the FCC, other government actors (the courts, Congress), the networks, advertisers, production companies, local stations, cable companies, streaming services, and so on. (You will probably not discuss all of these.)
Essay 2 – 40 points
Answer one of the following two prompts with an essay that’s about 600–900 words (~2–3 double-spaced pages):
For much of their histories, television and radio have been widely understood as national media that speak to national audiences.
How has television and/or radio functioned as a national medium, and how has that function changed over time?
What are the limitations of understanding television (or television and radio) in this way?
Be as specific as possible. When writing your answer, you might consider television’s relationship to race, gender, ethnicity, class, religion, age, and geography. (You will probably not discuss all of these.)
Think about the history of American television and radio’s relationship to race and ethnicity.
How have representations of Black people or other people of color changed over time?
What particular challenges did the creators and stars of shows with Black characters or performers, other people of color, or people of marginalized ethnicities face when creating or discussing their programs, and why?
How did critics evaluate these shows in ways that contributed to, or negotiated, these challenges?
What role did news programming that displayed Black political activism play?
You might also consider the following questions:
What are the limitations of evaluating shows with actors from systematically excluded groups in terms of “good” or “bad” representations, and what are the limitations of evaluating a show in terms of its accuracy or authenticity? (You will probably not discuss all of these.)
Explain how has television and/or radio functioned as a national medium, and how has that function changed over time?
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