24/7 Politics: Cable Television and the Fragmenting of America from Watergate to Fox News

How cable television upended American political life in the pursuit of profits and influence


Published (US):
Aug 15, 2023
Published (UK):
Oct 10, 2023
6.13 x 9.25 in.
40 b/w illus.
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As television began to overtake the political landscape in the 1960s, network broadcast companies, bolstered by powerful lobbying interests, dominated screens across the nation. Yet over the next three decades, the expansion of a different technology, cable, changed all of this. 24/7 Politics tells the story of how the cable industry worked with political leaders to create an entirely new approach to television, one that tethered politics to profits and divided and distracted Americans by feeding their appetite for entertainment—frequently at the expense of fostering responsible citizenship.

In this timely and provocative book, Kathryn Cramer Brownell argues that cable television itself is not to blame for today’s rampant polarization and scandal politics—the intentional restructuring of television as a political institution is. She describes how cable innovations—from C-SPAN coverage of congressional debates in the 1980s to MTV’s foray into presidential politics in the 1990s—took on network broadcasting using market forces, giving rise to a more decentralized media world. Brownell shows how cable became an unstoppable medium for political communication that prioritized cult followings and loyalty to individual brands, fundamentally reshaped party politics, and, in the process, sowed the seeds of democratic upheaval.

24/7 Politics reveals how cable TV created new possibilities for antiestablishment voices and opened a pathway to political prominence for seemingly unlikely figures like Donald Trump by playing to narrow audiences and cultivating division instead of common ground.

Ideas Podcast: 24/7 Politics

Awards and Recognition

  • A New Yorker Best Book We've Read This Year
  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year
  • Winner of the PROSE Award in Media and Cultural Studies, Association of American Publishers