The American model of broadcasting originated with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in the opposite way Britain approached the spread of radio. While in Britain the state created national networks and programming they viewed best served the nation, the American system attempted a bottom-up approach. Local stations with original content were created because they were viewed as being best able to serve the community. Radio stations appealing to a smaller demographic would, in theory, be best able to work within the best interests of its listeners and would create programming that resonated well with their audience.
There are, of course, pluses and minuses to both systems. A national system allows for larger budgets towards the creation of programming, with the assumption being that larger financial resources automatically equal high quality works. Local stations are able to represent the population they exist within well which national companies may not be able to do this because of the vast size of the country. On the other hand, certain communities without national programs may not ever have a story different than their own represented, limiting their worldview.
These two systems quickly combined, with locally owned stations receiving network created content to play at prime hours and the remaining time dedicated to local programming. However, some stations solely aired content created at the national level.
Local stations continue to struggle today to remain an authority figure in content played within smaller communities. National radio networks a large share of radio stations and our television system has weak local programming. Regulation of the ownership of broadcast stations is continuously debated, with the FCC most recently ‘relaxing’ the rules on company’s presence in local communities through multiple forms of media.
While there certainly are some benefits to national programming (individuals rural vs urban, conservative v liberal, etc. communities will receive the same quality of programming) we should at least question if these deregulations serve our communities and individuals or only the corporations controlling our media.