Engelman served on the national board of Pacifica, America's oldest noncommercial radio network, from 1973 to 1979. Perhaps because of that background, he is more attuned than most writers to public broadcasters who do not fit the standard NPR/PBS mode, such as independently licensed community radio stations or public-access channels on cable TV.
For Engelman, "public" refers not just to state subsidies but to citizen participation--not just to city hall but to town square. "A fundamental distinction," he writes, "emerges between federal and community forms of public radio and television, with the former rooted in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the latter in more decentralized and participatory processes." His book aspires to be the story of both brands of broadcasting--not a path-breaking history rich with primary research but a synthesis of the many books and articles that preceded his.
His book is also, one gathers, an attempt to defend these stations
against the alleged Threat From The Right, i.e., Republican politicians'
now-dormant efforts to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
"Ralph Engelman's history of the growth of public radio and television in America is timely, compelling, and instructive. Very useful for citizens who take seriously the need for public use of the public airwaves, which we need to remember, the people own but do not control." --Ralph Nader, Director, The Center for the Study of Responsive Law "There is no cynicism or stridency in Ralph Engelman's definitive history of public broadcasting's failure to fulfill its promise, only documentation of the immense problems endemic to government and corporate sponsored mass media. For models of hope, this volume acknowledges the civic discourse that has thrived in the margins of public broadcasting--in the independent community and in the homespun programming of the public access movement." --Dee Dee Halleck, Cofounder, Paper Tiger Television & Deep Dish TV "Public Radio and Television in America by Ralph Engelman effectively navigates the complex, controversial, and often maddening history of public broadcasting as a political and cultural force. Always more important than its audience size in America, public broadcasting's promise and problems, as well as its heroes and villains, are treated effectively and well in this solid and critical analysis. The book is compact, yet sufficiently substantive and blessedly well written and well documented." --Everette E. Dennis, Executive Director, Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, editor, Media Studies Journal "Ralph Engelman's Public Radio and Television in America is a chilling description of how noncommercial broadcasting is the tragic victim of conservative corporate politics that have spent most of this century trying to cripple and kill it." --Ben H. Bagdikian, former Dean, Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California,