Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger



America’s Network

Michele Hilmes (Editor)


Other Formats Available:
Spanning eight decades from the beginnings of commercial radio to the current era of international consolidation and emerging digital platforms, this pioneering volume illuminates the entire course of American broadcasting by offering the first comprehensive history of a major network. Bringing together wide-ranging original articles by leading scholars and industry insiders, it offers a comprehensive view of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) that brings into focus the development of this key American institution and the ways that it has intersected with, and influenced, the central events of our times. Programs, policy, industry practices and personnel, politics, audiences, marketing, and global influence all come into play. The story the book tells is not just about broadcasting but about a nation's attempt to construct itself as a culture—with all the underlying concerns, divisions, opportunities, and pleasures. Based on unprecedented research in the extensive NBC archives, NBC: America's Network includes a timeline of NBC's and broadcasting's development, making it a valuable resource for students and scholars as well as for anyone interested the history of media in the United States.
List of Illustrations

Introduction to Part One
Michele Hilmes
1. NBC and the Network Idea: Defining the “American System”
Michele Hilmes
2. “Always in Friendly Competition”: NBC and CBS in the First Decade of National Broadcasting
Michael J. Socolow
3. Programming in the Public Interest: America's Town Meeting of the Air
David Goodman
4. Regulating Class Conflict on the Air: NBC's Relationship with Business and Organized Labor
Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Nathan Godfried

Introduction to Part Two
Michele Hilmes
5. Breaking Chains: NBC and the FCC Network Inquiry, 1938-43
Christopher H. Sterling
6. Why Sarnoff Slept: NBC and the Holocaust
David Weinstein
7. Employment and Blue Pencils: NBC, Race, and Representation, 1926-55
Murray Forman
8. NBC, J. Walter Thompson, and the Struggle for Control of Television Programming, 1946-58
Mike Mashon
9. Talent Raids and Package Deals: NBC Loses Its Leadership in the 1950s
Douglas Gomery

Introduction to Part Three
Michele Hilmes
10. NBC News Documentary: “Intelligent Interpretation” in a Cold War Context
Michael Curtin
11. What Closes on Saturday Night: NBC and Satire
Jeffrey S. Miller
12. The Little Program That Could: The Relationship between NBC and Star Trek
Máire Messenger Davies and Roberta Pearson
13. Sex as a Weapon: Programming Sexuality in the 1970s
Elana Levine
14. Saturday Morning Children's Programs on NBC, 1975-2006: A Case Study of Self-Regulation
Karen Hill-Scott and Horst Stipp

Introduction to Part Four
Michele Hilmes
15. Must-See TV: NBC's Dominant Decades
Amanda D. Lotz
16. Creating the Twenty-first-Century Television Network: NBC in the Age of Media Conglomerates
Christopher Anderson
17. Life without Friends: NBC's Programming Strategies in an Age of Media Clutter, Media Conglomeration, and TiVo
Kevin S. Sandler
18. Network Nation: Writing Broadcasting History as Cultural History
Michele Hilmes and Shawn VanCour

NBC Time Line
Notes on Contributors
Michele Hilmes is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Department of Communication Arts and Director of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is author of Only Connect: A Cultural History of Broadcasting in the United States and The Television History Book, among other books.
"NBC: America's Network makes a significant contribution to our understanding of American broadcasting. Hilmes makes a convincing case for the appropriateness of an examination of a single firm, NBC, to illuminate the major themes and events of American broadcast history. In addition, she adeptly synthesizes a strong set of individually-authored chapters on specific historical periods, controversies, and program genres into a coherent whole. The writing is concise and lively and the breadth and depth of the material makes this a exceptional work."—William Boddy, author of New Media and Popular Imagination

"NBC: America's Network is an outstanding book about one network across US television history. Hilmes is an excellent editor who brings broad insights about the television industry to bear on this volume. The individual essays present different approaches and methods, and together provide an integrated history of NBC with analysis that respects the medium and the people that worked in it."—Mary Beth Haralovich, co-editor of Television, History, and American Culture: Feminist Critical Essays.

"Filled with highly readable essays by the top scholars in the field, NBC: America's Network explores key, often watershed moments in the network's history to illuminate the central role broadcasting has played in constituting public discourse about what is-and what is not-in the public interest. A welcome addition to the history of broadcasting, and essential reading for anyone interested in the transformative role of radio and TV in modern life."—Susan J. Douglas, author of Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more