Struggles for Equal Voice

The History of African American Media Democracy

By Yuya Kiuchi

Subjects: African American Studies, Communication, American History
Paperback : 9781438444789, 342 pages, July 2013
Hardcover : 9781438444796, 342 pages, November 2012

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Table of contents

Introduction: Unveiling the Struggles for Equal Voice
1. The Black Image in the White Pathology
African Americans and the Film Industry
African Americans and the Television Industry
African Americans in Mainstream Visual Culture
2. Cable Television: Past and Present
Prelude: Early Days of Cable Television, 1948–1969
Legal, Economic, Professional, and Technological Concerns, 1960–1979
Legal, Literature, and Public and Community Access Channels, 1980–1989
Decrease in Cable Awareness, 1990–2010
Need for Grassroots Movement for Cable Representation
3. The Incubation Period of Cable Television
Boston’s Social and Historical Background in the 1970s
Mel King and African American Media Representation
Foreseeable Advantage of Cable Television in Boston
Detroit’s Social and Historical Background in the 1970s
Detroit’s Twenty-Year Period of Feasibility Discussions and Study
Final Draft of the Request for Proposals
4. Drafting of Democratic Communication Media
Drafting and Issuing the Request for Proposals in Boston
Applying to Wire Boston: Submitting Preliminary Application
Issuing of Request for Proposals in Boston
Submission of Amended Application
Drafting and Issuing the Request for Proposals in Detroit
Applying to Wire Detroit: Barden Cablevision
Emphasis on Public Access and Local Origination in Detroit
5. Progress and Struggles in the Process of Franchise Decisions for Media Democracy
Boston’s Period of Application Review
Public Hearings in the Early Summer of 1981
Analyzing the Final Applications
Choosing Cablevision over Warner Amex
Discussion with Cablevision
Granting the License to Cablevision
Detroit’s Period of Application Review
Issuing the Final Report
Politics Delay Media Democracy
Signing the Final Agreement with Barden Cablevision of Detroit
6. From Agreement to Production: Period of Struggling
Boston and Its Post-Agreement Phase
Cablevision’s Failure to Meet the Expectations
A Beginning of an Alternative Media Form of African American Bostonians
Detroit and Its Post-Agreement Phase
Delays during the Post-Agreement Phase
Conclusion: BET is not the Answer
Historical Lessons from Cable Television in Boston and Detroit
African Americans in Cable Television in a National Context

Reveals how African Americans used cable television as a means of empowerment.


While previous scholarship on African Americans and the media has largely focused on issues such as stereotypes and program content, Struggles for Equal Voice reveals how African Americans have utilized access to cable television production and viewership as a significant step toward achieving empowerment during the post–Civil Rights and Black Power era. In this pioneering study of two metropolitan districts—Boston and Detroit—Yuya Kiuchi paints a rich and fascinating historical account of African Americans working with municipal offices, local politicians, cable service providers, and other interested parties to realize fair African American representation and media ownership. Their success provides a useful lesson of community organizing, image production, education, and grassroots political action that remains relevant and applicable even today.

Yuya Kiuchi is Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. He is the cotranslator of the Japanese edition of Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.


"…Struggles for Equal Voice … will prove useful to students and scholars of African-American history, culture, and technology. Kiuchi succeeds in making this book a starting point for future scholarship on the African-American use of television as a means to re-create their image. " — Journal of American Culture

"Kiuchi has done commendable, extensive archival work. " — Journal of American History

"…engagingly written, well-researched, and commendably argued. Kiuchi provides a revealing and informative insight into how the mass media in America can overcome its problematic history regarding racial sensitivities, while ultimately achieving positive social outcomes for otherwise disenfranchised minorities. Kiuchi gives us an important book, one that should be read by anyone interested in racial relations and the social history of American television. " — Journal of Popular Culture