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Struggles for Equal Voice

The History of African American Media Democracy

By Yuya Kiuchi

Publication Year: 2012

Reveals how African Americans used cable television as a means of empowerment. While previous scholarship on African Americans and the media has largely focused on issues such as stereotypes and program content, Struggles for Equal Voice reveals how African Americans have utilized access to cable television production and viewership as a significant step toward achieving empowerment during the post–Civil Rights and Black Power era. In this pioneering study of two metropolitan districts—Boston and Detroit—Yuya Kiuchi paints a rich and fascinating historical account of African Americans working with municipal offices, local politicians, cable service providers, and other interested parties to realize fair African American representation and media ownership. Their success provides a useful lesson of community organizing, image production, education, and grassroots political action that remains relevant and applicable even today.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

This volume attempts to fulfill an immense responsibility of resurfacing a part of rich African American history. This is a task too ambitious for one individual to undertake. I could not have finished this book without the support of my family, friends, and colleagues. I am grateful and humbled by their continuing support, kindness, and generosity. ...

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pp. xv-xviii

As a high school student in Tokyo, Japan, I nearly failed my history class. Approximately ten years later, I was in the final process of finishing up my doctoral dissertation—the base of this book—writing about history. A few years later, I was standing in front of more than one-hundred students at Michigan State University, ...

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Introduction: Unveiling the Struggles for Equal Voice

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pp. 1-16

The history of the relationship between African Americans and the cable television industry is complex and intriguing. Although Black Entertainment Television empowered many African Americans through its establishment in January 1980 and its listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991 as the first Black-owned corporation, many felt betrayed when its founder, ...

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Chapter 1: The Black Image in the White Pathology

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pp. 17-34

Visual culture has been a locus of both reflection and production. It is reflective because it is formed within its social, political, economic, cultural, and other environments. Visual culture showcases both what is and what has been. It also is productive because it has the power to influence our consciousness and even push us to a new direction. ...

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Chapter 2: Cable Television: Past and Present

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pp. 35-62

The trend of televisual resistance by whites against Black representation took a more concrete shape with cable television. Decades of erasure, distortion, exclusion, and discrimination in visual culture culminated in the debate on fair representation of African Americans and other minorities on the new medium.1 ...

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Chapter 3: The Incubation Period of Cable Television

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pp. 63-108

Although the history of cable television dates back to 1948, the technology did not attract the attention of Boston and Detroit’s city planners and community organizers until the early 1970s. It was only in the late 1960s that early users of cable television even began to explore its potential for social services.1 ...

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Chapter 4: Drafting of Democratic Communication Media

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pp. 109-176

The process of drafting a scheme for a democratic communication medium had two major phases: issuing of the RFP and the submission of cable application. Although this section covers a very short period of time—from August 1980 to February 1981 for Boston, and from August 1982 to December 1982 for Detroit ...

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Chapter 5: Progress and Struggles in the Process of Franchise Decisions for Media Democracy

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pp. 177-228

Once cable providers turned in their final proposals, the relevant offices and departments of Boston and Detroit closely examined the content of the submitted documents. Each candidate was expected to exceed the minimum requirements described in the RFPs in order to win the franchise. ...

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Chapter 6: From Agreement to Production: Period of Struggling

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pp. 229-248

Despite the signing of franchise agreements in both cities, residents did not get a cable system right away. In Boston, the Final License issued on December 15, 1982 gave Cablevision six years to complete the system.1 As for Detroit, the amended version of the franchise agreement signed in December 1985, ...

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Conclusion: BET is not the Answer

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pp. 249-260

Popular culture, by definition, is contested terrain. African American popular culture has been even more controversial. From slave songs and narratives to more contemporary hip-hop culture, the history of Black popular culture is that of African American struggles between being marginalized and being mainstream, and between the journey from three-fifths citizenship to full citizenship. ...


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pp. 261-302


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pp. 303-310


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pp. 311-324

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438444802
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438444796

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans in television broadcasting -- History.
  • African Americans on television -- History.
  • Television broadcasting -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Cable television -- Social aspects -- United States.
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