Television in the United States

A wealth of information is available on TV and radio media. Following are some information sources that I’ve found useful.

Broadcasters: Information about television and radio stations is available through the FCC’s CDBS Public Access database. In particular, companies that own broadcasters must disclose ownership on Form 323 every two years, and that ownership information is available through the Ownership Search in the Public Access database.

Broadcasting Schedules: Yahoo! posts current TV schedules. For older schedules, call the station in question or check back issues of newspapers or TV Guide. For listings from back issues of newspapers not available in a local library, call NYPL Premium Services and ask if they can get copies of what you need, either in their own collection or from another library.

Monitoring Services: Services that monitor radio and TV news shows for a company name, person, product, etc. include Vocus, Critical Mention, ShadowTV and TVEyes.LatinClips monitors Internet, TV and radio sources focusing on the U.S. Hispanic, Latin American and Caribbean markets.

Ratings: The main rating agency for TV shows is Nielson. A list of the top-rated shows is posted on Zap2It. Weekly ratings for the major networks are published in Variety and the Washington Post (Style section) on Wednesdays — and probably other papers too. If that doesn’t get you what you need, you can send a written request to the Law Department at Nielsen Media Research, Inc., 770 Broadway, New York NY 10003-9595.

The main rating agencies for radio are Arbitron (212-887-1300) and AccuTrack, which provide rankings for ratio stations in various markets.

Note: A reference to an “under 100” market means it is in one of the 99 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the U.S.; a reference to a “100+” market means it’s one of the other MSAs. For radio, these “rankings” are done by Arbitron based on U.S. Census data and are posted on the R&R Web site.

For song and album charts based on sales, see “Music.”

Stations: The Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook (Bowker) lists all radio and TV stations, plus some cable stations from the U.S. and Canada. TVRadio World links to station Web sites.

For more, see the Ratings section, above.

News – Television – Transcripts and Recordings Legal Materials

TV News Show Transcripts: The sources researchers have found useful for TV news show transcripts are:

  • Fulltext Sources Online – a great source for locating transcripts.
  • The web site for the show and/or the network. Researchers generally find these using Google or another good search engine. PBS and CNN both post transcripts.
  • Broad transcripts databases are available for many shows on Lexis (NEWS;SCRIPT) and (TRANSCRIPTS). There are also narrower databases. For example, Lexis offers a database of general TV and radio news transcripts (EXEC;SCRIPT), another for legislative news and Congressional hearings (LEGIS;SCRIPT) and political campaign news (CMPGN;SCRIPT).
  • Transcripts.TV sells transcripts of ABC news shows including 20/20, Nightline and World News Tonight.
  • BurellesLuce (800-368-8070).
  • FDCH, a transcription service, will tells you who to call to buy their transcripts for different news shows.
  • The TV & Radio Broadcast Transcripts page by Diana Nichols at the Ohio University library.

TV News Show Recordings: Sources for video of TV news shows include:

  • TV News Search & Borrow;
  • YouTube, if you’re feeling lucky;
  • The web site for the show or network;
  • Vanderbilt University’s Television News Archive, which posts Web summaries of all network evening news shows, plus many special reports (etc.). If you want to see a show described in a summary, you can borrow the videotape from Vanderbilt;
  • A commercial vendor such as Critical Mention;
  • BurellesLuce (800-368-8070)
  • The TV & Radio Broadcast Transcripts page by Diana Nichols of the Ohio University library;
  • You might also want to contact the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Radio and Television). The Center’s lets bona fide researchers view programs from the Museum’s collection in their on-site Scholars’ Rooms in LA and New York City.

Television Coverage of Congress

Television, Sexual Behaviour and the Law


Television Dramas in relation to Crime and Race

Television Dramas is included in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime (1), beginning with: The category “television drama” includes episodic crime series and nongenre series that have a strong criminal justice component. Examples of the latter include the nongenre series I’ll Fly Away (NBC, 1991–1993). This critically acclaimed but shortlived series, set at the dawn of the civil rights era, was narrated by a young African American woman (Regina Taylor), who worked as the housekeeper for the district attorney (Sam Waterson) in a southern town. Also set in the South, the Lifetime series Any Day Now (1998–2002) chronicled the renewed interracial friendship between the two female protagonists. Rene (Lorraine Toussaint) was a lawyer, the daughter of a civil rights attorney, who has returned to Atlanta. Mary Elizabeth (Annie Potts), wife, mother, and would-be writer, had been her best friend when they were children. (1)

Television News in relation to Crime and Race

Television News is included in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime (1), beginning with: The way that people perceive race and crime is often driven by the media. The public may simply assume that crime happens and the news media report the details. On the contrary, the media construction of race and crime is a complex interweaving of both fact and fiction oftentimes set in an overarching racist narrative. The depiction of race by the media is impacted by three primary factors: media influence on an audience, media ownership, and media depictions of race and crime. Although the media have a somewhat moderate influence on audiences, they do have the power to narrate how race and crime is discussed. Lastly, common depictions of race and crime contribute to the social construction of beliefs about who commits crime and who are the victims of crime. This section examines all of these areas as they relate to television news. (2)

Television Reality Shows in relation to Crime and Race

Television Reality Shows is included in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime (1), beginning with: The popular subgenre of crime-based reality television shows regularly contains influential, often distorted representations of individuals of various races and demographic backgrounds. Such programs feature a blend of entertainment and news attributes and promote themselves as representing “reality” as it exists in everyday life, whether or not this is actually the case. Crime-based reality shows are based on the assumption that law-abiding individuals compose an ideal world that is the most desirable state of being. They have descended from a range of preceding media offerings— including reality-crime radio programs, “true crime” magazines, and tabloid newspapers—and have benefited in their longevity from the growing and seemingly insatiable appetite of viewers for reality programming during the late 1990s and beyond. (3)


Notes and References

  1. Entry about Television Dramas in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime
  2. Entry about Television News in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime
  3. Entry about Television Reality Shows in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime

See Also

  • Censorship
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Media Law
  • Metropolitan Areas
  • Music

Further Reading

Television: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Television. This part provides references, in relation to Television, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Television by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Television and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Television or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Television and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Television. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Television should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Television when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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