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Title:Crisis of consumerism: advertising, activism, and the battle over the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 1969—1980
Author(s):Niesen, Molly
Director of Research:Nerone, John C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nerone, John C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ciafone, Amanda; McChesney, Robert W.; Stole, Inger L.
Department / Program:Inst of Communications Rsch
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
consumer activism
advertising policy
media policy
corrective advertising
economics education
advertising council
economic concentration
Abstract:This dissertation chronicles battles over the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s regulatory powers, which took place from 1969 through 1980. Following a scathing report by consumer activist Ralph Nader, Nixon revitalized what had come to be known as “the little old lady of Pennsylvania Avenue,” and transformed the FTC into the most powerful regulatory agency in Washington. During the period, consumer right’s activists pressured government officials to significantly strengthen the agency’s power to regulate the U.S. telecommunications system and the structure of the U.S. economy as a whole. The FTC’s policies initiated to make advertisers accountable for false claims, as well as those that would limit advertising to children, were all a result of vigorous debates about how the U.S. media should serve in public interest. Using Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony as a theoretical lens, this dissertation reveals the ways in which the Federal Trade Commission’s regulatory renaissance was evidence of an important moment of hegemony. Congress cemented and extended the FTC’s power in 1975 through a series of extraordinary legislative actions. Bolstered by these new laws, in 1977 the FTC voted unanimously for rulemaking to significantly limit advertising to children. These changes mostly took business leaders by surprise, and corporate America found itself on the defensive side of a debate with far-reaching consequences. By 1980, the national policy agenda was increasingly pro-business and effectively reduced the expansion of the welfare state: it favored management over labor, dismantled social welfare programs, and deregulated major industries—a shift generally referred to as neoliberalism. Chapter 1 describes the origins of the advertising reform movement, which began to ferment during the 1960s. Chapter 2 chronicles Nixon’s revitalization of the FTC. Chapter 3 begins with Nixon’s second term when the FTC continued to gain bipartisan approval and public credibility. The time period of Chapter 4 overlaps somewhat with Chapters 3 and 5. This chapter describes the public relations tactics used by businesses to combat the regulatory reinforcement of the FTC and redirect policies in its favor. Chapter 5 describes in detail the most notorious aspects of the FTC during the 1970s when the FTC attempted to ban advertising to children in its oft called “kidvid crusade.”
Issue Date:2014-01-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Molly Niesen
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-01-16
Date Deposited:2013-12

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