United States profile

President Barack Obama meets comedy show host Jon Stewart

The US has the most highly-developed mass media in the world. Its dramas, comedies, soap operas, animations, music videos and films have a global audience and are part of the staple fare of broadcasters worldwide.

TV is America's most popular medium. ABC, CBS and NBC ruled the roost for decades until the mass take-up of cable and satellite and the arrival of the Fox network. Fox News is the dominant US cable news network.

Mainstream TV is slick, fast-moving and awash with advertising. Ratings and advertising revenues spell life or death for individual shows. The switchover to digital took place in June 2009.

There are around 10,000 commercial radio stations. In cities, there are services to satisfy almost every taste. News, sports and talk stations predominate on mediumwave (AM), with music on FM. Subscription satellite radio offers hundreds of channels and has attracted millions of customers.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and some broadcast outlets give airtime to extreme hues of political - often right-wing - and religious thinking.

Public broadcasting

Public broadcasting is partly government-funded, but also supported by private grants. Universities and colleges operate outlets. National Public Radio - with more than 600 member stations - offers a more highbrow mix of news, debate and music without advertising. Public TV services operated by PBS have a mission to provide "quality" and educational programming.

New York Times on a hand-held device US papers have been early adopters of digital distribution technology

The government sponsors TV and radio stations aimed at audiences outside the US. Lately, services for audiences in the former Soviet bloc have been cut, while stations targeting audiences in the Middle East and Asia have been launched.

There are more than 1,500 daily newspapers in the US, most of them with a local or regional readership. Hard-copy circulations are in decline as readers turn to the web.

The US is the home of the internet. Some 270 million Americans are online (InternetWorldStats.com, March 2011), comprising more than 78 per cent of the population. Seventy-four per cent of Americans use social networks and blogs, and 62 per cent are active on Facebook. (Nielsen, 2010).

The press

Television

  • ABC - major commercial network
  • CBS - major commercial network
  • NBC - major commercial network
  • Fox - major commercial network
  • CNN - pioneer of 24-hour rolling TV news, operates domestic and international streams
  • MTV - pioneer of music television
  • HBO (Home Box Office) - pay TV network; originator of some of American TV's most critically-acclaimed programmes
  • PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) - public TV, serves some 350 non-commercial member stations

Radio

  • NPR (National Public Radio) - non-commercial network of member stations; news, information and cultural programmes
  • Clear Channel - America's largest commercial radio operator, owns more than 1,200 stations
  • CBS Radio - major commercial operator with nearly 180 stations in major markets
  • Citadel Media - major commercial operator

External broadcasting

News agencies

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