US & Canada

United States profile - Media

President Barack Obama meets comedy show host Jon Stewart Image copyright Getty Images

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 Channel 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.

There are around 10,000 commercial radio stations. In cities, there are services to satisfy almost every taste. 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 (NPR) - with hundreds of affiliate 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.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption US papers have been early adopters of digital distribution technology

The government sponsors TV, radio and online outlets aimed at audiences outside the US, including in the former Soviet bloc, the Middle East and Asia, and Cuba.

There are some 1,300 daily newspapers in the US, most of them with a local or regional readership. Hard-copy circulations are in decline as readers go online.

The US is the home of the internet. Some 287 million Americans are online (Internetlivestats.com, 2016), comprising more than 88% of the population.

Around 62% of American adults consume news via social media. Around 79% of all US adults use Facebook (Pew Research Center, 2016), far outstripping Twitter use (24%).

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
  • iHeart Media - America's largest commercial radio operator, owns more than 1,200 stations
  • CBS Radio - major commercial operator with nearly 180 stations in major markets
  • Cumulus Media - major commercial operator

External broadcasting

News agencies