‘Golden Age’ of the radio was from 1930 to the 1950’s. __________________Radio provided
free access, and created effects on Politics, Entertainment, Education, and the
Economy which were affected greatly by the radio.
(In the 1930’s majority of the American nation owned a radio. The
radio therefore had tremendous impacts, being able to spread rapidly. The radio
had many effects on American history, positive and negative results. Four areas
in American history that were affected majorly by the radio are politics,
entertainment, education, and the economy. )
One way the radio affected politics
is it affected the presidential elections. In the election of 1924, the two
candidates who were running were Calvin Coolidge, running for the Republican
Party, and John W. Davis who was running for the Democratic Party. Calvin
Coolidge won the election that year. “Many observers credited radio for
Coolidge’s overwhelming majority in the presidential election.” Many claim that a big cause of Calvin Coolidge
winning the president election was because most of those who controlled the
radio were from the Republican Party. Another claim for the reason of the
Republican Party winning the election was because of the representation of the
two parties. The republicans were very organized and smooth talking, while the
democrats had lengthy speeches, spoke a lot about religion, and sounded
intolerant to others who held different opinions than them. The voices of Davis
and Coolidge were different. When Davis spoke, he didn’t sound confident, he
sounded plain and boring. However, when Coolidge spoke, he came across as
confident. Coolidge spoke with personality, his voice portrayed control, and
every word was clearly understood. Calvin Coolidge was known as having a “radio
voice”. The listener on the radio felt confident in Coolidge. The radio played
an enormous part in the 1924 election, changing the course as the Republican
Party won the election. (Best).
affected politics by presidential debates, Roosevelt’s Fireside chats, and
Propaganda for WWII.
Secondly, during the Great Depression, many Americans lost faith in
the American government and its banks and therefore removed their money from
the banks. On March 12, 1933 President
Roosevelt spoke to the nation on the radio, explaining the bank crisis. This
was known as ‘The Fireside Chat’. He announced a national banking holiday,
informing the people that the banks are now safe and they could once again
return their money to the bank. President Roosevelt directly involved the
people of the United States in the politics. The ‘Fireside Chat’ restored the
trust of the government to the Americans. (Horten)
A third effect of radio was
propaganda for WWII done by the government which largely dominated the radio. Radio
Propaganda had major effects on America during WWII, bringing information about
the war to the public and influencing their participation in the war. During
WWII, 90% of the nation owned radios, therefore war propaganda spread, reaching
mostly everyone. Commercial radio helped the government to promote the sale of
war bonds and war saving stamps, raising revenue for the war. There was a show,
“The treasury Hour” to promote raising money for the war. The government even
had some actors and actresses who volunteered to speak on behalf of the
American government. The government began radio shows such as “This is War!”
and “We hold these Truths” which focused on the evil actions of the Germans,
and the atrocities of the concentration camps. The radio programs focused on why
the United States was fighting Germany. These programs also criticized
sympathizers of the Nazi party and those who wanted to remain in isolationism.
Another tactic of propaganda which the government used was the “you-technique”.
This technique was to involve the listener. Drama was used as the narrator
would present himself as in the military life, making the listener feel as if
he himself was in the military. The war was created personal into the homes of
the listeners. The propaganda made the listener feel as if he was in the
military, which aroused sympathy for the soldiers. Overall, many viewed the
radio propaganda as a positive, very effective war effort (Concho).
H.C. Peterson, author of
‘Propaganda for War’, had a different view from many others. He believed that
the radio propaganda by the American government had negative effects. In 1939 he said, “The propaganda was not only
responsible in a large degree for the American entrance into the war, but it
was also responsible for the temper and irrationality of the peace treaty, and
the vindictiveness of the post war years.” (Horten)
Many ppl had radio à unity….
Many people gravitated towards the radio because of the
entertainment provided over the radio. In an interview with my grandfather he
said, when he was younger in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, he stayed in the dormitory.
One day the Rosh Hayeshivah came to the yeshivah and entered the Bais Medrash.
He found the room empty. The Rosh Yeshivah couldn’t understand where everyone
had disappeared to. He went searching for the boys and found them all in their
rooms’ right by the radio, listening intently to the game. This shows how
radio, and entertainment on the radio was a big part of the American daily life (Lasker).
On a Halloween evening, October 30, 1938, the Mercury Theatre on
the Air performed a drama on the radio adapted from H.G. Well’s War of
the World which described a Martian invasion on New York and New Jersey,
spreading death and destruction. Listeners who tuned into the radio listened as
a reporter described hundreds of Martians coming from the sky. The listeners
didn’t know that the story wasn’t true, and sat listening frozen, and in utter
fear. Hysteria formed among the American radio listeners. The hysterical
listeners had missed the introduction which said that this wasn’t a live news
report. Many began fleeing their homes, causing traffic jams in the street.
People began calling the police department, radio stations, and newspapers
requesting advice how to protect themselves from the Martians.
In a single block at Heddon Terrace and Hawthorne Avenue, more than
twenty families rushed out of their houses with wet handkerchiefs and towels
over their faces to flee from what they believed was to be a gas raid. Some
began moving household furniture.
East Orange police headquarters received more than 200 calls from
persons who wanted to know what to do to escape the “gas.” Unaware of
the broadcast, the switchboard operator tried to telephone Newark, but was
unable to get the call through because the switchboard at Newark headquarters
was tied up. The mystery was not cleared up until a teletype explanation had
been received from Trenton.
After the incident of the hysteria, many adults needed medical
treatment because of the shock and fear they faced. (The War of the Worlds – New York Times article on
hysteria caused by Orson Welles’ radio show)
“((((((This event revealed the unquestioning faith
that many Americans had in radio. Radio’s intimate communication style was a
powerful force during the 1930s and 1940s”. (insert source 7.4 Radio’s Impact
radio is utilizing the very air we breathe and could enter every home in the
nation through doors and windows no matter how tightly barred” (Arnold). ??-with the
source-fix it (Craig) (-he was author of the fireside politics)
New York University created classes over the radio. Some people
said that classes given over the radio would provide a higher education. Eventually
‘Colleges of the Air’ were created by many universities such as Harvard,
Columbia, Tufts, Universities of Arkansas, California, Florida, Minnesota, and
many other universities. ‘Colleges of the Air’ were college classes given by
universities on the radio. Many people were worried that radio education would
be substituted for classroom education, which has less of a power of
completion. There is a bigger chance of a student receiving education from the
radio not to complete their education, than from a student receiving education
from a regular classroom environment. There is not the same dedication from a
radio education as a classroom education. Another problem is a student may tune
into a radio show instead of the radio class from college. In addition, a radio course doesn’t provide the social
interaction which a classroom education provides (Matt and Fernandez)
was able to reach mostly everyone because majority of the nation owned radios.
This caused a feeling of national unity. “The
first modern mass medium, radio made America into a land of listeners, joining
every age and class into a common culture.” (Lewis)Roosevelt
tried convincing people about the New Deal (also in source of radio propaganda
“During World War II, 185 billion dollars was raised by American
citizens through War Bond Sales” War Bonds appealed to families to give War
Bonds so they will once again see their loved ones who went out to fight.
(Jarett). Source: World War II
Propaganda/ Can American Citizens’ thoughts be controlled?
Americans supported the U.S. entry into the war and therefore companies
associated their product to patriotism in order to increase sales.
– Music has been an important part of advertising. Many companies used the
“singing commercial”. “Pepsi’s historic “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot” jingle
became a jukebox hit in 1941 (Enrico and Kornbluth).” Advertisers would invest a lot of money in
the music for the ads. The cost for an original song for an ad started at
$10,000 or higher. The music would create a feeling and mood that caused a
consideration of a product. Many disliked when ads would come onto the radio,
but when there was an ad with music, the ad was disguised. However, at the same
time, the music also drew attention to the ad, helping the ad to be more
effective. Additionally, when a message
was sung, it was easier to remember the name of the product, for it is easier
to memorize a song than it is to memorize facts or the name of a product. The
music with the ad thus enabled a listener to ultimately buy the product (Kellaris, Cox and Cox). Increasing
audience attention to music enhances message reception when the music evokes
message-congruent (versus incongruent) thoughts.Increasing audience attention
to music enhances message reception when the music evokes message-congruent
(versus incongruent) thoughts.Advertising
companies would try to sell their products by informing the listener “how to
make their food healthier” or “how to ration their belongings to make them last
longer.” Even commercials contributed to the war effort.
The Golden Age of Radio
source: 7.2 Evolution of Radio Broadcasting: Understanding Media and
Culture: an Introduction to Mass Communication
The so-called Golden Age of Radio occurred between 1930
and the mid-1950s. Because many associate the 1930s with the struggles of the
Great Depression, it may seem contradictory that such a fruitful cultural
occurrence arose during this decade. However, radio lent itself to the era.
After the initial purchase of a receiver, radio was free and so provided an
inexpensive source of entertainment that replaced other, more costly pastimes,
such as going to the movies.
Radio also presented an easily accessible form of media
that existed on its own schedule. Unlike reading newspapers or books, tuning in
to a favorite program at a certain time became a part of listeners’ daily
routine because it effectively forced them to plan their lives around the dial.
As the networks became more adept at
generating profits, their broadcast selections began to take on a format that
later evolved into modern television programming. Serial dramas and programs
that focused on domestic work aired during the day when many women were at
home. Advertisers targeted this demographic with commercials for domestic needs
such as soap (Museum). Because they were often sponsored by soap companies,
daytime serial dramas soon became known as soap operas.
“By the late 1930s, the popularity
of radio news broadcasts had surpassed that of newspapers”.
The Birth of
the Federal Communications Commission
The Communications Act of 1934 created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and ushered in
a new era of government regulation. The organization quickly began enacting
influential radio decisions. Among these was the 1938 decision to limit
stations to 50,000 watts of broadcasting power, a ceiling that remains in effect
today (Cashman). As a result of FCC antimonopoly rulings, RCA was forced to
sell its NBC Blue network; this spun-off division became the American
Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in 1943 (Brinson, 2004).
Another significant regulation with long-lasting influence
was the Fairness Doctrine. In 1949, the FCC established the
Fairness Doctrine as a rule stating that if broadcasters editorialized in favor
of a position on a particular issue, they had to give equal time to all other
reasonable positions on that issue (Browne & Browne, 1986). This tenet came
from the long-held notion that the airwaves were a public resource, and that
they should thus serve the public in some way. Although the regulation remained
in effect until 1987, the impact of its core concepts are still debated. This
chapter will explore the Fairness Doctrine and its impact in greater detail in
a later section.
The Golden Age of Radio covered the period between 1930
and 1950. It was characterized by radio’s overwhelming popularity and a wide range
of programming, including variety, music, drama, and theater programs.
A great deal of radio’s success as a
medium during the 1920s and 1930s was due to the fact that no other medium
could replicate it.
(This changed in the late 1940s and
early 1950s as television became popular. A 1949 poll of people who had seen
television found that almost half of them believed that radio was doomed
(Gallup, 1949). Television sets had come on the market by the late 1940s, and
by 1951, more Americans were watching television during prime time than ever
(Bradley). ) Although radio was far from doomed by television, its Golden
What radio could still do better
than any other mass medium: play music.
“Newspapers had the potential to reach a wide audience, but
radio had the potential to reach almost everyone.” Those unable to read, are
able to understand the radio, and those with a busy schedule can listen to the
radio while they work. à This brought unity to the nation….
Music was played over the radio, enabling songs to become
famous. Until now music was limited to being spread only by concerts, and on
phonographs which not everyone purchased because it costed each time. But music
on the radio was free, and since majority of the nation had radios, many songs
became popular, and band leaders became famous. The music industry thrived
because of radio. NBC had
a radio show called the Music Appreciation Hour to educate the public on
the details of classical music. (Howe)
NBC created an orchestra and performed concerts over the radio. As the music on
the radio spread nationwide, new types of music were created to keep up with
the taste of the people because the radio listeners were getting bored of the
usual type of music (Wald).
“by 1934, 60 percent of the nation’s
households had radios. One and a half million cars were also equipped with
them.” In 1921 there were 5 radio stations, by 1930 there were 618, and by the
year 1940, there were 764 radio stations in the United States. In 1931 there
was $56 million raised from radio advertising, and by 1940 there was $215.6
million sold by advertising. (Source: Sterling and Kittross (1978)) (Scott)
Source: Sarah Sundin World War II War Bonds:
were a stable investment with the bonus of aiding the war effort. Channeling
cash into bond purchases helped prevent inflation in the robust wartime economy
as well.” Children favored war stamps.
War stamps were stamps purchased and added to an album. Once the album was
full, the album was exchanged for a bond. Many employers set aside money from the
workers’ paychecks so the employees could set aside money for War Bonds with the
money they received (Sundin)