The missing history of LBJ’s Task Force on Communications Policy, 1967-71

The Task Force on Communication Policy, convened by President Lyndon Johnson in August, 1967, was a wide-angled and open-ended attempt to engage with both longstanding and newly urgent problems. The mission assigned to it by LBJ was already dauntingly complex: the allocation of the electromagnetic spectrum, the organization of the federal government for policymaking in and around communications, the best means of assimilating satellite technology domestically and internationally. Yet the Task Force quickly moved beyond this mandate to diagnose the overall structure and policy of domestic telecommunications. How may we account for this, and what did it signify? Archival research in several collections discloses vital, previously hidden aspects of a larger transition toward the liberalization of networking, and shows that the Task Force was a decisive forerunner. The available historical record also shows that conflict over policy was profound, reaching up into the highest levels of the Executive Branch.

The Missing History of LBJ’s Task Force on Communications Policy, 1967-71 was presented on February 19th, 2015, by Dan Schiller, professor emeritus. His most recent book, Digital Depression: Information Technology and Economic Crisis, was published in 2014.

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