Eavesdropping at Allerton: The Recovery of Paul Lazarsfeld’s Progressive Critique of Educational Broadcasting

Glenda R. Balas



This article draws from archival documents to examine Paul Lazarsfeld’s partici-pation in the 1949 Allerton Seminar, a vision-crafting conference sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation for scholars and leaders in "noncommercial, educational broadcasting." The author argues that clear linkages exist between Lazarsfeld’s perspective on nonprofit media and a progressive vision of U.S. public service broadcasting. The purpose of this article is to recover some of Lazarsfeld’s contri-butions to this concept of public media and to suggest that he sought a broad cul-tural project for noncommercial television that was underpinned by qualitative research, worries about class bias and class interest, and a commitment to diverse and overlapping voices.

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