Dr. Christopher Ali
CA

Christopher Ali

Associate Professor
Knight News Innovation Fellow, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University
Unit: College of Arts and Sciences
Department: Department of Media Studies
Office location and address
226 Wilson Hall
115 Ruppel Dr
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904
Education
PhD, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, 2013
MA, University of Pennsylvania, 2011
MA, Concordia University (Montreal), 2009
BA, University of Alberta, 2006
Biography

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, rural broadband, critical political economy, critical geography, comparative media systems, media localism, and local news. 

Christopher’s current research focuses on broadband policy and deployment in the United States, specifically in rural areas. His forthcoming book, Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity (MIT Press, 2021)examines the complicated terrain of rural broadband policy in the US. 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. 

Currently, Christopher is involved in two major research projects. The first, with Hilde van Den Bulck of Drexel University and funded by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, asks why Americans trust PBS more than any other public institution. His second project examines the role of Virginia counties in broadband deployment, planning and policy. 

Christopher has published in numerous internationally ranked academic journals including: Communication Theory, Media Culture & Society and Telecommunications Policy. His most recent article, which examines the failure of broadband policy at the Federal Communications Commission was published in the International Journal of Communication in 2020. Christopher’s work has been published in The New York Times, The Hilland Realtor Magazineon broadband policy, and he is a frequent commentator on the subjects of broadband, media policy, and local news, with interviews in the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, NPR, CNET, CBC, Bloomberg, and other major national and international news outlets.

In April 2021, Christopher testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on a hearing about federal broadband policies. He has also briefed members of Congress on his research - presenting to the House Democrats House Task Force on Rural Broadband. In addition, he has presented before various state governments and initiatives, including the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on Re-Imagining New York, and the governors’ offices of Illinois and Virginia. 

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?

Christopher is currently a Knight News Innovation Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. He is also the Vice Chair of the Communication Law and Policy Division of the International Communication Association. Previously, he held fellowships at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society (2019-2020), the Global Future Council of the World Economic Forum (2018), the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communications (CARGC) at the University of Pennsylvania (2017), the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University (2016-2017) and the University of Fribourg in Fribourg Switzerland (2015). 

MDST 3405: Media Policy and Law
Credits: 3
This course examines the constitutional, legal and regulatory foundations common to print, broadcast media and the Internet. An overview of topics such as libel, invasion of privacy, obscenity and copyright helps students understand forces that shape news and information they receive and prepares them to use media more effectively as citizens, voters and entrepreneurs in an increasingly complex multimedia world.
MDST 3510: Topics in Media Research
Credits: 3
This hands-on course prepares students to read, evaluate, and design research in media studies. Drawing on critical, historical, administrative, and industrial traditions in the field, students will learn to assess the validity and anticipate the ethical requirements of various methods & data collection procedures. Following a theme selected by the instructor, the course culminates with each student proposing a new, original research study.
MDST 3559: New Course in Media Studies
Credits: 3
This course provides the opportunity to offer a new course in the subject of Media Studies.
MDST 3900: Specialized Field Experience in Media Studies
Credits: 1–2
This course is reserved for Media Studies students interested in receiving credit for participation in student-led and UVA-affiliated enterprises that are media-related under the guidance of a faculty member or industry professional in the area of media studies. Students must put a proposal together for the project with a faculty sponsor, which must be approved by the add/drop deadlines. Restricted to Media Studies Majors.
MDST 4000: Media Theory and Methods
Credits: 3
An introduction to research methods in media studies. Intended as a foundation for thesis and project work for students in the DMP program. Covers subjects such as research design, ethics, people-based methods (ethnography, surveys, interviews) and textual analysis.
MDST 4010: Distinguished Majors Thesis Writing or Research Project
Credits: 3
Writing of a thesis or production or a project with appropriately researched documentation, under the supervision of the faculty DMP thesis readers or project supervisor.
MDST 4510: Capstone Topics
Credits: 3
A capstone seminar, this course offers students a supervised opportunity to pursue original research in media studies. Related to a theme selected by the instructor, the project will entail design of a research question, extensive collection and analysis of literature and data, and completion of a 15-20 page paper that provides new, critical insight or information on the subject examined.
MDST 4559: New Course in Media Studies
Credits: 1–4
This course provides the opportunity to offer a new course in the subject of Media Studies.
MDST 4704: Political Economy of Communication
Credits: 3
This survey course introduces students to the political economy of media. Central themes include political economy's historical development, its usefulness to the study of media & communications, & its contemporary applications in scholarly research. Students will be introduced to the power dynamics & institutional forces that impact media institutions, industries, ownership, cultural production, consumption & distribution in the US & elsewhere.
MDST 4960: Advanced Independent Projects in Media Studies
Credits: 3
This course is designed to allow students to pursue independent research and study of a topic that is not contained within the course offerings of Media Studies. This course will not fulfill the capstone requirement
IMP 4970: Interdisciplinary Thesis
Credits: 3
Required Thesis for Interdisciplinary majors.
IMP 4971: Interdisciplinary Thesis
Credits: 3
Required Thesis for Interdisciplinary majors.
MDST 7704: Political Economy of Communication
Credits: 3
This survey course introduces students to the political economy of media. Central themes include political economy's historical development, its usefulness to the study of media & communications, & its contemporary applications in scholarly research. Students will be introduced to the power dynamics & institutional forces that impact media institutions, industries, ownership, cultural production, consumption & distribution in the US & elsewhere.
MDST 8003: Methods of Media Research
Credits: 3
This class teaches students the logics, ethics, and techniques of qualitative research in media studies.
MDST 8900: Graduate Independent Study
Credits: 3
A single semester of independent study under faculty supervision for MA or PhD students doing intensive research on a subject not covered in available courses. Requires approval by a Media Studies faculty member who has agreed to supervise a guided course of reading and research.
MDST 8966: Master's Thesis Development
Credits: 3
Students meet as a cohort to translate their intellectual interests into a specific thesis project through iterative development, critique, and refinement of their research questions and proposed methods. Students will read and critique published work, gaining a sense of best practices in research design. This course is heavily reliant on peer feedback and collaboration. The culmination of this class is a thesis proposal.
MDST 8998: Non-Topical Research
Credits: 1–12
This is a variable credit course that gives students the opportunity to do supervised or unsupervised research toward their degree. These hours fulfill enrollment credits but do not count toward graded credit requirements.
SARC 9993: Advanced Independent Research
Credits: 1–6
Advanced independent research on topics selected by individual students in consultation with a faculty advisor. Prerequisite: Permission of the Director.

Knight News Innovation Fellow, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University

Faculty Fellow, Benton Institute for Internet & Society

Fellow, Global Futures Council, World Economic Forum

Fellow, Center for Advanced Research in Global Communications, University of Pennsylvania

Fellow, Universite de Fribourg (Switzerland)