Historical Racial Issues of Broadcast Television

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Broadcast television has had to engage with and adapt to issues of race over the years. Especially around the time of the Civil Rights Movement, broadcast networks began to face public backlash over the representation of African Americans on television or the lack thereof. In the early 1960s, the NBC affiliate station WLBT in Jackson Mississippi refused to show The Nat King Cole Show or civil rights coverage (Hilmes, 269). Many people were upset by this because it was yet another way for the South to discount the citizenship of African Americans. The FCC ruled that the station had to have a balanced presentation of racial issues under the Fairness Doctrine. Eventually WLBT’s license was not renewed because of poor public service to a racial group. As time went on, there was less outright refusal to broadcast African American programming, but their role in the American family was still a tentative one. All in the Family, which ran from 1971 to 1979 on CBS, dealt with sensitive topics in the nation such as race. The main character Archie was a conservative with many prejudices against liberals and African Americans. The show aimed to shine a light on these issues by pointing out how absurd it was to hold to such views (Hilmes, 276). However, some critics claim that while liberals may have had a laugh at Archie's sentiments, there were those who agreed with his radical views and were glad to see them being voiced on television. While this show took the right steps to combat
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