Television translators and the second class TV citizen : a Montana case study, 1955-1970
Sinnott, Jeffrey Allen
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This is an initial study into the infrastructure of rural television, looking at the local, regional, and national forces that have shaped rural viewing. Specifically, it takes the rebroadcast device of the television translator station, and through a case study in Montana during the approximate period of 1955 to 1970 of actions affecting translator use, brings us closer to understanding how television has served rural Americans. It follows the actions and policies of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regional and later national organization known today as the National Translator Association (NTA), the U. S. Congress, and concerned special interest groups. It necessarily focuses on FCC policies toward translator operators, small market television broadcasters, and Community Antenna Television (CATV) system operators. This study makes extensive use of the papers of Montana broadcaster Edmund B. Craney, which include records of the NTA, the FCC, local translator associations, and other television interest groups. It also utilizes television industry periodicals and recent historical works concerning television programming and regulation during the period. This study finds that rural television viewers had a marginal status compared to those in more densely populated areas, with fewer choices in programming, little or no local access to television air time, and an increased dependence on television as a source of news and entertainment, particularly in geographically isolated areas. The FCC had a shortsighted view of the role of translators in disseminating television signals to the greatest audience, and an inconsistent policy as to how to regulate different technologies in order to expand television service to rural areas. This study concludes that the marginal status of rural television viewers was due to the dichotomy governing FCC regulation of broadcast services, treating television as both a business and an essential public service. For the most part, commercial interests have dictated FCC policies toward the dissemination of television services. Free market forces, therefore, have placed rural viewers in such a marginal status.