1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Christopher Ali

Associate Professor

226 Wilson Hall

Office Hours:

Wednesday 12:00-1:45pm and 3:30-5:00pm or by appointment

Class Schedule:

MDST 3510 Media Policy - TuTh 11:00am-12:15pm

MDST 4510/7704 Political Economy of Communication - M 3:30-4:45pm


Dr. Christopher Ali is an Associate Professor in Department of Media Studies. He joined the Department in the fall of 2013 after completing his PhD at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include: communication policy and regulation, critical political economy, critical geography, comparative media systems, localism, and local news.

Christopher’s current research project, Farm Fresh Spectrum: Rural broadband and the future of connectivity, examines the complicated terrain of rural broadband policy in the United States. Farm Fresh unpacks the politics of broadband policy, asking why millions of rural Americans lack broadband access and why the federal government, and large providers, are not doing more to connect the unconnected. It explores different business structures, focusing on the importance of co-operatives to provide rural broadband. It contemplates the technologies of rural broadband—from the “future proof” fiber, to the tried-tested-and-true digital subscriber line (DSL) and the rollout of the advanced cellular networks of 4G, LTE, and 5G. It examines the uses of rural broadband, focusing on precision agriculture. Finally, it analyzes the policies of rural broadband, interrogating issues of regulatory jurisdiction, authority, legitimacy, and subsidy.

Christopher has published in numerous internationally ranked academic journals including: Communication Theory, Media Culture & Society and International Journal of Communication. His most recent article, which examines the role of the Rural Utilities Service in American rural broadband policy, was published in Telecommunications Policy in 2018. Christopher’s work on rural broadband has been published in The New York Times, and he is a frequent commentator on the subjects of broadband policy, media policy, and local news, with interviews in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, NPR, CNET, CBC, Bloomberg, and other major national and international news outlets.

Christopher’s first book, Media Localism: The Policies of Place (University of Illinois Press, 2017) addresses the difficulties of defining and regulating local media in the 21st century in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and the implications these difficulties have for the long-term viability of local news. This is the first book to investigate local media policy in a comparative context and the first to systematically assess media localism in Canada and the UK. It combines policy analysis and critical theory to provide for a unique perspective on one of the most challenging policy questions in the media industry: what does it mean to be local?

Currently, Christopher is the Faculty Fellow at the Benton Foundation. He 2018 he was a Fellow with the Global Future Council of the World Economic Forum. In 2017, he was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communications (CARGC) at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2016-2017, Christopher was a Fellow with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, where he completed an intensive research project on the state of small market newspapers in the United States titled, “Local News in a Digital World: Small Market Newspapers in an era of Digital Disruption.”


Media Localism, The Policies of Place

University of Illinois Press, Feb 2017

Echoes of Gabriel Tarde: What We Know Better or Different 100 Years Later

USC Annenberg Press, May 2014

Originally published in 1898, Gabriel Tarde’s essay “Opinion and Conversation” can be read as a series of propositions about the interaction of press, conversation, opinion and action, anticipating today’s “deliberative democracy.”

Exploring these themes in a hyper-text “dialogue” with Tarde, Elihu Katz, Christopher Ali, and Joohan Kim ask what we know better or different 100 years later in this book. The aim is not only to reawaken attention to Tarde’s text, but to assess the progress of communications research in its light. The e-book’s format makes it possible to access the essay as a series of propositions, foreshadowing contemporary concerns with issues such as agenda setting, public opinion formation, the diffusion of innovation, the two-step flow of communication, the role of the press in nation-building, new media technologies, the normative role of media in a democracy, media events, and the like. The e-book includes an analytic Introduction, a biographical postscript and the first full English translation of Tarde’s essay. Long overlooked, “Opinion and Conversation” deserves to be canonized as foundational for theories that link mass and interpersonal communication, especially in the age of social media.