How has American radio—once a grassroots, community-based medium—become a generic service that primarily benefits owners and shareholders and prohibits its listeners from receiving diversity of opinions, ideas, and entertainment through local programming? In The Quieted Voice: The Rise and Demise of Localism in American Radio, Robert L. Hilliard and Michael C. Keith blame the government’s continual deregulation of radio and the corporate obsession with the bottom line in the wake of the far-reaching and controversial Telecommunications Act of 1996. Fighting for greater democratization of the airwaves, Hilliard and Keith call for a return to localism to save radio from rampant media conglomeration and ever-narrowing music playlists—and to save Americans from corporate and government control of public information.
The Quieted Voice details radio’s obligation to broadcast in the public’s interest. Hilliard and Keith trace the origins of the public trusteeship behind the medium and argue that local programming is essential to the fulfillment of this responsibility. From historical and critical perspectives, they examine the decline of community-centered programming and outline the efforts of media watchdog and special interest groups that have vigorously opposed the decline of democracy and diversity in American radio. They also evaluate the implications of continuing delocalization of the radio medium and survey the perspectives of leading media scholars and experts.