Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ted Friedman - Chair

Second Advisor

Alisa Perren

Third Advisor

Kathryn Fuller-Seeley

Fourth Advisor

David Cheshier

Fifth Advisor

Deron Boyles


American political culture has virtually precluded public discussion about the fundamental weaknesses of capitalism, forcing media reformers to argue defensively that commercial broadcasting is a special case of market failure. This investigation questions the historical inevitability of commercialized mass media structure by examining how the ideology of media professionalism is deployed in public debate over noncommercial uses of mass media resources. The work of John Dewey and Walter Lippmann frame a theoretical understanding of how professional autonomy works in opposition to community, and thus how professionalization works in opposition to a shared democratic sphere. Relying on the fundamental concepts of discursive formations studied in depth by Michel Foucault, three case studies analyze historic moments (the invention of listener support by Lewis Hill, the rise of news reporting by community television volunteers, and the introduction of media literacy in K-12 public education) that offer evidence of discursive breaks within the constructions of professionalism that support commercialization, and what those breaks suggest about the re-instantiation of the historical inevitability of the commercial regime. The conclusion discusses how conditions have led us to a point of deprofessionalization, a state in which media consumers disarm the notion of professionalism before it can be deployed as a governing relation, and how deproduction of authoritative texts effectively contains the power of professionalized norms. INDEX WORDS: Professionalism, Professionalization, Media reform, Commercialization, Noncommercial media, Dewey-Lippmann debate, Lewis Hill, Community television, Media literacy, Deproduction, Deprofessionalization