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Title:Community media and civil society: lessons from the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela
Author(s):Potter, Richard
Director of Research:Valdivia, Angharad N.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Valdivia, Angharad N.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Christians, Clifford G.; McChesney, Robert W.; Schiller, Daniel
Department / Program:Inst of Communications Rsch
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Community Media
Participatory Communications
Latin America
Antonio Gramsci
Public Sphere
Civil Society
Abstract:This dissertation explores the role of community media in democratic civil society governance through an examination of participatory communications under socialist administrations in Latin America, with a primary focus on the Bolivarian government of Venezuela. In so doing, it seeks to establish a theoretical framework that will facilitate publicly supported democratic media systems capable of displacing hegemonic commercial and state models. One major axis of investigation is the utility of public sphere theory for the structuration of participatory media institutions that function within a system of civil society governance. The work opens by identifying three overlapping discursive modes within which community media has been theorized since its emergence in the late 1960s. It then recognizes a shift within the literature toward a more explicit engagement with notions of civil society and the public sphere. I argue that the benefits of this developing perspective will be augmented by a more nuanced understanding of social governance in terms of a multiplicity of interpenetrated meaning- and decision-making public spheres. I then trace the theory and practice of participatory media in relation to socialist administrations in Cuba (1959 – 1989), Chile (1970 - 1973), Nicaragua (1979 - 1990), and Venezuela (1998 – present). This historical progression illustrates a weakness in Marxist conceptions of civil society that led to an over-reliance on the state-party apparatus and concomitant limitations on the incorporation of participatory media practice. It also demonstrates that this debility has been increasingly addressed by a shift toward a Gramscian perspective of civil society governance as the goal of socialist organization. The bulk of the dissertation tracks the above patterns as they have played out in Venezuela both before and after the establishment of a Bolivarian Republic in 1998. I demonstrate that a burgeoning community and alternative media movement emerged in a dialectical relationship with the Bolivarian movement. I then argue that the Bolivarian administration's institution of community media according to a liberal regulatory framework facilitated explosive growth within the sector that has been followed by a period of relative stagnation due largely to the lack of a consistent and transparent funding model. This section concludes with a review of attempts to restructure the legal framework governing the sector, with a specific focus on the efforts of community media practitioners to more firmly incorporate civil society into the decision-making processes of resource provision and content production within a broader institutional framework for civil governance known as the commune system. Particular attention is paid to the relationship between the movement and the state during a prolonged attempt to formulate and pass a Law of Popular Communication. This work concludes by contextualizing the Bolivarian community media experience within the broader theoretical considerations outlined in the initial chapters. In so doing, I employ the Bolivarian vision for civil governance over a publicly funded media system in order to better illustrate a dual-type, interpenetrated public sphere model that might facilitate the structuration of democratic media systems outside of the context of socialist state governments.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Richard Potter
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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